The department provides students with the linguistic and analytic ability to explore the significance of the cultural traditions and political histories of the German-speaking countries of Central Europe. At the same time, the interdisciplinary study of German culture, which can include art, economics, history, literature, media theory, philosophy, political science, and other fields, encourages students to evaluate broader and contradictory legacies of the German past, the history of rapid modernization and the status of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland today.

The German experience of national identity, political unification, and integration into the European Union sheds light on wider issues of cultural cohesion and difference, as well as on the causes and meaning of phenomena such as racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust. In general, an education in German Studies not only encourages the student to consider the impact of German-speaking thinkers and artists, but also provides a lens through which the contours of the present and past, in Europe and elsewhere, can be evaluated.

The department offers students the opportunity to pursue course work at all levels in the languages, cultures, literatures, and societies of the German-language traditions. Whether interested in German literature, the influence of German philosophy on other fields in the humanities, or the character of German society and politics, students find a broad range of courses covering language acquisition and refinement, literary history and criticism, cultural history and theory, history of thought, continental philosophy, and linguistics.

By carefully planning their programs, students may fulfill the B.A. requirements for a double major in German Studies and another subject. A coterminal program is offered for the B.A. and M.A. degrees in German Studies. Doctoral students may elect Ph.D. minors in Comparative Literature, Humanities, Linguistics, and Modern Thought and Literature.