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German Studies

Medeival Houses along River

How is it that the culture of German-speaking Europe has so profoundly influenced and shaped Western civilization—and especially the culture of the United States—through the centuries and into today? The Department of German Studies provides the opportunity for students to explore such questions and others in its language, literature and culture courses. Students encounter a culture of “poets and thinkers” (as well as scientists, engineers, artists, and some admittedly unsavory characters), and have the opportunity to experience German language and culture firsthand through Smith’s own study abroad program in Hamburg, Germany.

Department of German and Italian (Transnational Humanities)

To provide students with an even more transnational experience, the departments of German Studies and Italian Studies are merging. Look for our new dual-listed courses, GER/ITL 189 (European Culture Beyond Borders, fall 2021) and GER/ITL 369 (Transnational Encounters, spring 2022). And talk to your adviser or instructor about majoring in German and/or Italian!


Student Video Project

Judith Keyler-Mayer’s GER 250 class is on YouTube! Watch the video.

Five College German Events

Visit the Five College German Studies website for upcoming events.

Requirements & Courses

Students majoring in German studies acquire the linguistic ability, cultural competency, research skills, and contextual knowledge to open up global perspectives and pursue their own personal lines of inquiry. The specific learning goals of the major fall into three interrelated categories:

1) Language, Semantics and Rhetoric

Students completing the major in German studies:

  • Achieve proficiency in German (at the B2 level or higher).
  • Are able to function independently in German-speaking social and academic environments.
  • Can identify how language is used and shaped for a variety of purposes and develop a critical relationship with media, including literature, film, the arts, scholarly writing, Internet resources and the press.

2) Research and Cultural Contextualization

Students completing the major in German studies:

  • Acquire information literacy working with German- and English-language sources.
  • Can identify and formulate incisive and relevant research questions, individually as well as in collaboration with peers and faculty.
  • May situate these research questions across disciplinary boundaries, exploring the social, political, historical, cultural, economic and scientific contexts of German-speaking cultures, with an emphasis on Germany’s particular modes of multiculturalism.
  • Gain experience in presenting the findings of this research to a broader public, individually and collaboratively, in a variety of formats.

3) Theory and Praxis for Informed Global Citizenship

Students completing the major in German studies:

  • Are able to identify and assess the evolution of critical and innovative thought within German-speaking cultures and its powerful impact on the modern world.
  • Develop a coherent and sophisticated approach to understanding the significant and multifaceted contributions of German culture beyond the borders of German-speaking Europe.
  • Learn to draw upon their work in German studies to find answers to their own big questions regarding their scholarship, life, society, responsibility, difference, representation and power.

Advisers: Judith Keyler-Mayer, Joel Westerdale

Students who plan to major in German Studies or who wish to spend the junior year in Hamburg should take German in the first two years. Students enrolled in 250 (220), 300 (222) or higher-level courses should consider taking the Zertifikat Deutsch examination administered by the Goethe Institute and offered each spring on campus. The Zertifikat Deutsch is highly regarded by private and public sector employers in all German-speaking countries as proof of well-developed communicative skills in basic German. Students are also recommended to take courses in other departments that treat a German topic.

Students who enter with previous preparation in German will be assigned to appropriate courses on the basis of a placement examination. Students who receive a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement test may not apply that credit toward the degree if they complete for credit 110Y, 144 (115), 200 or 250 /260). Students are also recommended to take courses in other departments that treat a German topic.


Ten courses or 40 credits beyond the basis of GER 200

Required Courses:

  • GER 161: The Cultures of German-Speaking Europe
  • GER 250: Advanced Intermediate German: Environmental Culture
  • GER 260: Advanced Intermediate German: German All Over Campus
  • GER 300: Topics in German Culture and Society (topics vary)
  • GER 350: Seminar: Language and the German Media
  • GER 360: Advanced Topics in German Studies (topics vary)


Five further courses, of which at least two must be in German*

  • FYS 156: Beyond the Hitler Channel
  • GER 211: America and the Germans
  • GER 241: Jews in German Culture
  • GER 330: Literary Forms
  • GER 230: Topics in German Cinema
  • GER 231: Weimar Film
  • GER 233: Nazi Cinema
  • GER 339/340: Topics in Media Studies
  • GER 291: Topics in the Culture of Science and Technology
  • GER 299: Exhibiting the Visual Arts of Interwar Germany 1925-1940
  • CLT 214: Literary Anti-Semitism
  • CLT 296: Enlightenment

*Any cross-listed course may also count toward the major with the approval of the Department of German Studies.

Period Requirements

Students must take at least one course representing each of the following periods: before 1832, 1832-1933, 1933-present.

A 10-page paper may serve as fulfillment of the period requirement for any of the three periods. If the course is outside of the department, the paper must deal with a specifically German topic.

Courses outside the Department of German Studies may be counted toward the major, with prior departmental approval.

Advisers: Judith Keyler-Mayer, Joel Westerdale

Basis: German 200


Six courses (or 24 credits) beyond the basis (GER 200) of which no more than two may be in English.

Courses other than those in the Smith catalog taken during the Study Abroad Program in Hamburg will be numbered differently and considered equivalent to (and upon occasion may be substituted for) required courses offered on the Smith campus, subject to the approval of the department.

Courses outside the Department of German Studies may be counted toward the minor, with prior departmental approval.

Director: Joel Westerdale

GER 430: Thesis
8 credits
Full-year course; offered each year


The requirements for Latin honors are the same as for the major, with the addition of a thesis, to be written over the course of two semesters, and an oral examination in the general area of the thesis. The topic of specialization should be chosen in consultation with the director of honors during the junior year or at the beginning of the senior year.

Smith College Course Search

Smith’s online course search includes course listings (description, instructor and offered terms), department data, information on majors and minors, honors programs and cross-listed and interdepartmental courses. A search function allows you to find courses by course number, department, keywords in the title, term offered, number of credits, fields of knowledge and professor.

Five College Course Guide

The Five College consortium increases your choices. Four liberal arts colleges—Smith, Amherst, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke—along with the University of Massachusetts, offer joint courses of study as well as certificate programs in interdisciplinary fields. Courses are available at no extra cost to Smith students.

Gertraud Gutzmann
Professor Emerita of German Studies

Jocelyne Kolb
Professor Emerita of German Studies

Joseph McVeigh
Professor Emeritus of German Studies


Hans Vaget
Helen and Laura Shedd Professor Emeritus of German Studies and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature

Margaret Zelljadt
Professor Emerita of German Studies



Smith College is ranked as one of the top institutions nationally in the number of Fulbright Fellowships awarded to its students each year. The Department of German Studies is proud to be an integral part of Smith’s success in this area. German studies students are also regularly awarded prestigious fellowships such as DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) research fellowships and undergraduate fellowships, as well as Calkins Fellowships in the sciences. Learn more about the Smith College Fellowships Program.

Fulbright Fellowships

  • Michaela Gill '16, Hamburg Study Abroad 2014-15
  • Eilis Goshow-Snook '16, Hamburg Study Abroad 2014-15
  • Sydney Ramirez '16, Hamburg Study Abroad 2014-15
  • Maria Prescott '15, Hamburg JYA 2013-14
  • Chloe Vaughn '15, Hamburg JYA 2013-14
  • Isabelle "Izzy" Ross '15, Paris JYA 2013-14
  • Caitleen Erin Desetti '14, Hamburg JYA 2012-13
  • Nora Nadire '14, Hamburg JYA 2012-13
  • Genevieve de Mijolia '13
  • Tosca Fischer '13 (DAAD), Hamburg JYA 2011-12
  • Ruth Isserman '13
  • Christina Arrison '06, Hamburg JYA 2004-05
  • Emily Coda '12, Hamburg JYA 2010-11
  • Lucia Leighton '12 (DAAD), Hamburg JYA 2010-11
  • Elizabeth Boulton '11
  • Margaret Metzler '11, Hamburg JYA 2001
  • Kassia Rudd '11, Hamburg JYA 2009-10
  • Nicole Abramowski (Finalist)
  • Sarah Unbehaun (Finalist), Hamburg JYA 2009-10
  • Alyssa Greene '10, Hamburg JYA 2008-09
  • Tiarra Maznick '10, Hamburg JYA 2008-09
  • Johanna Gustin '09, Hamburg JYA 2007-08
  • Elizabeth Pusack '09
  • Erin Davis '07
  • Ann Kurtz '08, Hamburg JYA 2006-07
  • Lili Mundle '08, Hamburg JYA 2006-07
  • Stephanie Lewellen '08, Hamburg JYA 2006-07
  • Lilith Dornhuber-DeBellesiles '08, Hamburg JYA 2006-07
2007–08 Alternates & Finalists
  • Melissa Kelly '07
  • Saloma Furlong '07, Hamburg JYA 2005-06
  • Hannah Clancy '06, Hamburg JYA 2004-05
  • Josine Greenblatt '07, Hamburg JYA 2005-06
  • Brianna St. John '06, Hamburg JYA 2004-05
  • Michaela LeBlanc '07
  • Leigh Cressman '06, Hamburg JYA 2004-05
  • Lily Hart '06, Hamburg JYA 2004-05
  • Kerstin McGaughey '06, Hamburg JYA 2004-05
  • Nora Pittis '06
  • Emily Sudmeier '06

DAAD Fellowship Awards


Kassia Rudd


Christie Capone

  • Lyudmyla Kovalenko '09, Hamburg JYA 2007-08
  • Chantal Pheiffer '09
  • Kassia Rudd '11, Undergraduate Fellowship, Hamburg JYA 2009-10
  • Sara Unbehaun '11, Undergraduate Fellowship, Hamburg JYA 2009-10
  • Lilith Dornhuber-DeBellesiles '08, Hamburg JYA 2006-07
  • Christie Capone '10, Undergraduate Fellowship, Hamburg JYA 2008-09
  • Alyssa Greene '10, Undergraduate Fellowship, Hamburg JYA 2008-09
  • Mackenzie Brigham '07, Hamburg JYA 2005-06
  • Keara Harman '07, Hamburg JYA 2005-06
  • Lyudmyla Kovalenko '09, Undergraduate Fellowship, Hamburg JYA 2007-08
  • Nora Pittis '06
  • Carroll Rodrigo-Kelley '07, Undergraduate Fellowship, JYA Hamburg 2005-06

Calkins Fellowship Awards

  • Lyudmyla Kovalenko '09
  • Xiao Min Zhao '09

Blumberg Travel Grant Awards


Margaret Metzler '11

  • Bessie Zhu '09, Hamburg JYA 2007-08
  • Xiao ting Zhao '09, Hamburg JYA 2007-08

Lili Mundle (Hamburg JYA 2006-07)


Keara Harman '07, Hamburg JYA 2005-06


Department of German Studies

18 Henshaw Avenue, Unit B1-204
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3591
Fax: 413-585-3592

Administrative Assistant:
Kathleen Gauger

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.