Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships.
German Studies Major
The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the literary and cultural traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
The major requires German 210 (or its equivalent), German 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.
Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester. Students may choose to fulfill the Comprehensive Exam requirement with GERM 495: Senior Research Seminar in the Fall semester of their senior year.
German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.
Departmental Honors Program
In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete German 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical, theoretical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.
Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.
The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination (or GERM 495), together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.
The German Department supports a variety of activities that help to increase familiarity with German culture, such as film series, guest speakers, the German residential section in Porter House, and a weekly German-language lunch table. The Department awards two prizes annually for superior achievement in German courses and for individual initiative benefiting German studies at Amherst.