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German Studies, Cornell University

Cornell University Department of German Studies Cornell Univeristy

Undergraduate Studies

Undergraduate Studies

Mission Statement


German Studies at Cornell enables students to develop the linguistic, literary, and cultural competency required of world citizens in the twenty-first century.  The interdisciplinary and cross-cultural orientation of our curriculum is designed to fulfill the needs of our diverse student population.  We encourage students to choose from the broad range of courses we offer in collaboration with other units such as Government, Philosophy, History, Comparative Literature, Jewish Studies, and Performing and Media Arts.

Our curriculum is inspired by three core tenets: (1) The literary and visual arts are unique realms of thought and experimentation that constitute a source of knowledge in its own right.  (2) Engagement with the distinct ways these domains have been investigated in the German intellectual tradition provides a crucial basis for critical reflection on society and culture.  (3) The greatest insights that teachers and students produce arise in a dynamic environment that fosters cooperative learning, the pleasure of discovery, and rigorous intellectual mentoring.

Our courses emphasize close analysis of texts and artifacts, as sustained at all times by thoughtful reflection on the concepts that guide our investigations.  We regard essay writing in both English and German as central to our core mission of teaching students to think critically and develop cogent, rhetorically effective arguments.  Our curriculum closely integrates the study of language and culture at all levels of instruction.  We regularly offer seminars on such topics as modern literature and aesthetics; space and architecture in fictional worlds; avant-garde movements and artistic perception; contemporary literature, globalization and migration; critical theory; the detective novel; politics and history on stage; homo oeconomicus; Marx, Nietzsche, Freud; political theory and cinema; psychoanalysis; web culture. 

We warmly welcome and encourage students to pursue German Studies as a vibrant part of their general education, whether as a major or minor; as a double major alongside another discipline; in preparation for graduate school; or as a stepping stone to an international professional career.  Our diverse course offerings fall in the broader themes of:  (A) Culture and Society, (B) Literature and Philosophy, (C) Aesthetics and Media, and (D) Critical and Political Thought.  Therefore, we seek to engage our students' intellect and imagination by valorizing the plurality of intellectual impulses that comprise our field and relating them purposefully to each student's academic goals.