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German Studies

Kohlberg Hall

Department Overview

The German Studies Section offers courses ranging from intensive elementary German to the age of Goethe, from the urban modernity of Vienna and Berlin to German Cinema and contemporary popular culture.

German is spoken in three countries with diverse cultural, political, and economic traditions: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It is also the mother tongue of significant minorities in neighboring countries. Among Europeans, in fact, the approximately 98 million native speakers of German greatly outnumber those of English, French, Italian (58-60 million each), or Spanish (36 million). In business, diplomacy, and tourism, German ranks second to English in Western Europe, and in Eastern Europe it holds first place. Knowledge of German grants access not only to rich literary, philosophical, and artistic traditions but also to many other kinds of contemporary cultural, economic, political, and scientific developments. German at Swarthmore therefore offers a curriculum that reflects these wide-ranging interests. Students also have the opportunity to apply for membership in the German Honors Society (Delta Phi Alpha) and for financial support for study and research abroad as well as for immersive language study.

The core faculty and staff of German Studies at Swarthmore personally and professionally contribute to the inter-cultural and inter-disciplinary nature of German Studies. Hansjakob Werlen, a native of Switzerland, has published on 19th-century writers Kleist and Herder as well as on the works of Canetti. His scholarship has intersected with Bryn Mawr colleague Azade Seyhan's focus on minority literatures in Switzerland and Germany for co-taught classes on diasporic writing. Sunka Simon, hailing from the North-German Hamburg, has published on Elfriede Jelinek, German film, and popular culture. She is working on a book on concepts of regionalism and globalization in German television. Christopher Schnader, Pennsylvania-born and a Berlin transplant, earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation on friendship in 18th-century Germany. He enlivens German conversation courses with his knowledge of contemporary German socio-political and cultural events.

Brandenberg Gate in Berlin

Brandenburg Gate

Ständige Vertretung Restaurant

Ständige Vertretung Restaurant

Remnants of the Berlin Wall

Remnants of the Berlin Wall

Brandenburg Gate

Art Installation at the Brandenburg Gate

Reichstag Building

Reichstag Building

Brandenburg Gate

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Course Announcements for Fall '22

GMST 001 – First Semester Intensive German
GMST 005: German Conversation – Christopher Schnader
Practice conversing in German while engaging with films, various media, and current events. Students also have multiple opportunities to hone their presentation skills and explore self-selected topics in a low-pressure environment. This half-credit course is open to all who have either placed above our third-semester German course or are currently enrolled in GMST 003.
GMST 003 – Third Semester Intensive German
GMST 020: Introduction to German Studies. Topic Fall 22 – Literature and the Canon - Hansjakob Werlen
GMST 083: Crime Drama - Cross-listed as FMST 083/LITR 083 – Sunka Simon
This course looks at the history and format of the crime drama in film and on television.
More than other genres, crime dramas have reflected on societies' historical blind spots, taboos, and peripheries along with its reigning hierarchies of power, and they have debated foundational ethical parameters amidst ongoing struggles to deal with change, particularly in relation to childhood, gender, race, class, and sexuality. At the same time, shows like CSI have altered television aesthetics and spectatorship in dialogue with new forensic and media-specific technologies:
What has made the crime drama such a success in different media and mediascapes? How have its familiar stock characters, plot lines, settings, and recognizable styles adapted? What accounts for its ability to speak to audiences across different cultural backgrounds while emanating from and representing cultural, national, and regional specificities? How has the genre responded to social activism and debates over police brutality and the prison-industrial complex? How can we explain serial killer fandom in the convergence era? (see below)

GMST 091 "The Rhine - Stories and Histories."  Madalina Meirosu
This course invites you to take a virtual trip along the Rhine as we explore the history, legends, and literature associated with the river, while also looking at ecological and environmental issues specific to the Rhine. The Rhine is famous both for its beauty and picturesque castles, and for the role it has played in the political life of Germany. For example, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Rhine emerged as an important element in the construction of national identity in the literature and political discourse of the time. By contrast, the Rhine was also the site of the first democratic state in Germany, the short-lived Republic of Mainz in 1793.
The river has also been associated with the beginning of mass tourism in the early years of the nineteenth century, and we can still catch a glimpse, with the help of various travelogues, of something of the horror and indignation over the pollution left behind by picnicking tourists who came to admire the castles and scenery during the Romantic period. The Rhine is also known for an environmental disaster that occurred in 1986 at a production plant in Basel owned by the pharmaceutical company Sandoz.
For those who live in the area, the river is not only a source of life and nourishment, but also a source of pleasure with bicycle paths bordering its banks and a hiking trail of almost 200 miles stretching between Bonn and Koblenz. Throughout the course we will learn about important cities (such as Basel, Cologne, Koblenz, Worms, Mainz, Bingen, Bacharach, Düsseldorf, and Bonn) through the reading of literature and other texts.

New Course Fall '22!

GMST 083: Crime Drama
Cross-listed as FMST 083/LITR 083

This course looks at the history and format of the crime drama in film and on television.

More than other genres, crime dramas have reflected on societies' historical blind spots, taboos, and peripheries along with its reigning hierarchies of power, and they have debated foundational ethical parameters amidst ongoing struggles to deal with change, particularly in relation to childhood, gender, race, class, and sexuality. At the same time, shows like CSI have altered television aesthetics and spectatorship in dialogue with new forensic and media-specific technologies:

What has made the crime drama such a success in different media and mediascapes? How have its familiar stock characters, plot lines, settings, and recognizable styles adapted? What accounts for its ability to speak to audiences across different cultural backgrounds while emanating from and representing cultural, national, and regional specificities? How has the genre responded to social activism and debates over police brutality and the prison-industrial complex? How can we explain serial killer fandom in the convergence era? 

Crime scene tape across a blank background

German Activities

This semester, the German Language Table ("DeutschTisch") has turned into "Berliner Talk mit Chris und Gästen - Live aus Berlin." Swarthmore students, faculty, and staff members are invited to practice their German through these informal conversations with special guests each Wednesday at 1:15pm (EST) via Zoom. For the link and further details, please e-mail Christopher Schnader.  
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When in-person:

Filmabende and Spielabende (Siedler von Catan, German Monopoly and Tabu, etc.)(monthly)

Oktoberfest (Fall)

Grillfeier (Spring)

Excursions to Philadelphia, New York and the Pennsylvania Dutch country

Contact Christopher Schnader to be added to our mailing list.

Photo of students engaged in Zoom chat session

Language Media Lab

The Language Media Lab provides resources to enhance the study of foreign language, literature, and culture at Swarthmore College. Students have access to audio/video materials required for foreign language classes. The lab's resources include 12 Macbook Pros, 8 iMacs, an extensive library of foreign films, video cameras, and audio recorders. The space is a unique, adaptable, multimedia-friendly place to study, practice and develop language skills. 

Learn More