Courses of Study 2022-2023 
    May 18, 2024  
Courses of Study 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

German Studies

In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings  

The Department of German Studies offers students a wide range of opportunities to explore the literature and culture of German-speaking countries, whether as part of their general education, a major in German Studies, a double major, a German minor involving another discipline, or as preparation for graduate school or an international professional career. Courses are offered in German as well as in English; subjects range from medieval to contemporary literature and from film and visual culture to intellectual history, music, history of psychology, and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.

The course offerings in German begin with GERST 1210 GERST 1220 , GERST 1230  (introductory language level). Our intermediate-level courses, GERST 2000-2499, provide further grounding in the language and in German literature and cultural studies. GERST 2060 - German in Business Culture  provides instruction for German in the culture of business. On the advanced level (3000-level or above), we offer thematically oriented courses that include intensive language work (3000–3209); literature and culture study courses in German, including GERST 4100 - The Seminar ; and seminars of interdisciplinary interest taught in English. Addressing a broad spectrum of topics in German culture, our courses appeal to German majors, minors, and other qualified students.

The department’s offerings in English focus on literature (e.g., the fairy tale and Romantic consciousness or 20th-century writers such as Kafka, Mann, Brecht), theorists such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, issues in mass culture and modernity, problems of German national identity/ies, and cinema and society. Courses in German and English at the 3000- and 4000-levels explore such topics as aesthetics from Kant to Heidegger, city topographies, Freud and his legacy, the German novel, literature and philosophy, political theory and cinema, the Frankfurt School, migration and globalization, and the avant-garde. It may be possible to arrange a German section for courses taught in English, either informally or formally (for credit). Students are encouraged to discuss this possibility with instructors.



E. Siegel, chair; G. Lischke, language program director and director of undergraduate studies; A. Schwarz, director of graduate studies; L. Adelson, E. Born (on leave fall 2022), P. Fleming, G. Matthias Phelps, D. McBride, P. McBride, E. Pirozhenko (on leave fall 2022), G. Waite. Emeritus: A. Groos, P.U. Hohendahl

Sequence of Courses:

Courses in German:

Introductory level: GERST 1210 GERST 1220 , or GERST 1230  

Intermediate level: GERST 2000  

Upper intermediate level: GERST 2020 , GERST 2040 , and GERST 2060  

Advanced level: GERST 3000-level (GERST 3000-3209 and GERST 3210-3499) or higher taught in German

Courses taught in German that are numbered 3000 through 3209 focus on language study and the course topic; courses taught in German that are numbered 3210 through 3499 focus on literature and other forms of cultural expression while continuing to work on language proficiency.

Further courses in German or English on the 3000- and 4000-level focusing on literature and culture courses (see course descriptions)

Advanced Standing:

Students with an AP score of 4 or better can be granted 3 credits in German depending on placement test results. Students with an AP score of 4 or better, an LPG score of 65 or higher, an SAT II score of 690 or higher, or an official B1 Goethe Institute Certificate, must take the CASE exam for placement in GERST courses. Students coming to Cornell with advanced standing in German and/or another subject are encouraged to consider a double major or minor and to discuss the options with the director of undergraduate studies as early as possible.

Certificate in German Language Study:

The Certificate in German Language Study is issued to recognize substantial language study beyond the GERST 2000  level in the Department of German Studies. It is based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Level B2+. Students are awarded the certificate after passing three German Studies courses held in German with a grade of B or above. Two of these courses must be at the 3000-level or above. No more than two of the three courses can be taken with the S–U option. Applications for the language certificate may be picked up in the Department of German Studies (183 Goldwin Smith Hall) in early April.


The department is affiliated with the USA–Interns Program to provide summer internships to qualified students with German companies and agencies. Interested students should contact the language program director, Gunhild Lischke (, G75 Goldwin Smith Hall, 607-255-0725). The deadline is October 31 every year.

Major in German Studies:

Majors pursue individual interests in courses addressing literature and philosophy, culture and society, aesthetics and media, as well as critical and political thought. The course work emphasizes close analysis of texts and artifacts guided by thoughtful reflection on the concepts contributing to thorough inquiry. Seminar-style classes develop skills in critical thinking and the articulation of cogent, rhetorically effective arguments in oral and written communication. Majors also have the opportunity to study abroad with the “Berlin Consortium for German Studies.” The department encourages double majors and makes every effort to accommodate prospective majors with a late start in German. Students interested in the major should consult the director of undergraduate studies, Gunhild Lischke (, G75 Goldwin Smith Hall, 607-255-0725).

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements 

Admission to the major:

By the end of their sophomore year, prospective majors should have successfully completed one of the following: GERST 2020 , GERST 2040  , GERST 2060 , or equivalent.

To complete the major:

To complete the major, a student must take 8 courses (a minimum of 32 credits) to fulfill both of the following categories:

  • Demonstrate competence in the German language by successful completion of two 3000-level courses with intensive language work (GERST 3000-3209) or equivalent. 
  • Complete six courses in German Studies at the 3210-level or above.  One of these must be GERST 4100 - The Seminar . Four of these must have the “GERST” prefix, including GERST 4100 . In consultation with the director of undergraduate studies, courses with a substantial German component from other departments may also be included for the major. No more than one course per semester taken as part of a study-abroad program may be counted toward the major.

Minor in German Studies:

The undergraduate minor in German Studies is intended for students enrolled in any of the seven undergraduate colleges at Cornell who wish to gain a broad understanding of the culture, literature, and society of German-speaking countries while they are refining their language competence. The minor is designed to provide for breadth while permitting flexibility to emphasize areas of interest in German Studies.

The course GERST 2000  or equivalent is the prerequisite for declaring the minor. Students must complete a minimum of four courses numbered 2020 or above and selected from the offerings of the German Studies Department. At least one of these courses must be taught in German at the 3000-level or higher. One of the four courses may be from another department as long as it has a substantial German component. No more than one course per semester taken as part of a study abroad program may be counted toward the minor. GERST 4510 - Independent Study  – GERST 4520 - Independent Study  may not be counted at all.

Interested students in the German Minor should consult with the department’s director of undergraduate studies, Gunhild Lischke (


Honors in German Studies are awarded for excellence in the major, which includes overall grade point average and completion of the honors thesis. Students are awarded either honors (cum laude), high honors (magna cum laude), or the highest honors (summa cum laude) in the program based on the honors advisors’ evaluation of the level and the quality of the work completed toward the honors degree. The honors distinction will be noted on the student’s official transcript and will also be indicated on the student’s diploma.

Prerequisites for admission. Students must have upperclass standing, an overall GPA of a B or higher, and a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the major. Students must first consult with the director of undergraduate studies in German Studies regarding eligibility for the honors program.

Procedure. Students who wish to be considered for honors ideally should apply to the director of undergraduate studies no later than the second term of the junior year. Students who are off campus in their junior year must apply by the third week of classes in the first semester of their senior year. Students should secure the consent of a faculty member to serve as the director of both the reading course (GERST 4530 ) and the writing of a thesis (GERST 4540 ). With the help of their thesis advisor, students choose an area of special interest and identify at least one other faculty member who is willing to serve on the honors committee. An oral thesis defense concludes the process.

Study Abroad in a German-Speaking Country:

The Department of German Studies strongly supports study abroad as an opportunity for students to live and study in the German cultural context. The experience of living abroad promotes enduring personal growth, provides new intellectual perspectives through cultural immersion, and opens up academic and professional opportunities.

Students interested in studying abroad are encouraged to consider the Berlin Consortium, of which Cornell is a member. The program is run in conjunction with the Free University of Berlin and is of very high caliber. Six weeks of an intensive proseminar on German discourse and culture held at the Berlin Consortium center are followed by one or two semesters of study at the university. Participants enroll in regular courses at the university. Assistance in finding internships between semesters may be available to students staying for an entire academic year. A 3.0 language GPA and upper-intermediate level in German language study (GERST 2020 , GERST 2040 , GERST 2060 ) are the prerequisites for participating in the program; an additional course on the 3000-3209 level is encouraged. In addition, the Berlin Consortium offers a new fall or spring only program based on the US semester schedule. Please consult with the language program director.

Students interested in this or other study abroad options in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland should consult the language program director, Gunhild Lischke  (

First-Year Writing Seminars:

Consult the John S. Knight Institute for course times, instructors, and descriptions.