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German Studies

German at Vanderbilt has been offered since the University’s founding in 1873. It entails the study of the present and the past of German-speaking countries such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The goals of our program are to foster critical thinking, to further cross-cultural understanding, and to promote more effective written and spoken communication.

Our department offers courses both in German and in English, and prepares students for a wide range of professions in business, government, and academia. We emphasize the acquisition of German language skills, the study of intellectual and cultural history from the Middle Ages to the present, and offer courses that enable students to work across different disciplines, including history, philosophy, music, and the visual arts. To ensure language proficiency and intellectual development, our classes are small, and based on exchange and interaction. A German-language residence hall, social activities, and film and lecture series offer opportunities to further engage with the culture. Additionally, our department offers different study abroad programs.

Given Germany’s economic strength, its leading role in the European Union, its rich intellectual heritage, and strategic geographical position between East and West, familiarity with its language and culture enhances one’s career opportunities. Whether you are continuing or just beginning your language and culture study, you are invited to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for German or the Chair of the Department of German, Russian and East European Studies.

Recently Offered Courses

Great German Works in English; War on Screen; Business German; Women and Modernity; Dreams in Literature; German Fairy Tales; Love and Friendship; The Aesthetics of Violence; Arts and Sciences: Goethe and the Natural World; Women at the Margins: German-Jewish Writers; The Contemporary German Novel; Nazi Cinema: The Manipulation of Mass Culture.

Honors Program

Especially motivated students are encouraged to participate in the honors program. In addition to the requirements for the major, honors students complete six hours of graduate-level courses, study a semester at a German-speaking university, write an honors thesis, and pass an oral examination during the last semester.

Study Abroad

The department encourages students to spend a semester studying in a German-speaking culture. Assisted by the Vanderbilt Global Education Office (GEO), students have studied with the IES Abroad program in Vienna, as well as with Wayne State University’s JYM program at the Ludwig Maximilians Universität in Munich. Our six-week summer program in Berlin offers students the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of German culture and learn the language at the Free University of Berlin.

Delta Phi Alpha

Our department is a chapter of Delta Phi Alpha, the National German Honor Society. Promoting the study of German language, literature and civilization, the society offers fellowships for advanced undergraduate students who plan to visit Germany. Delta Phi Alpha also confers the National German Award for an outstanding senior who continues
their study of German in graduate school.

McTyeire International House

German is one of the five languages featured in McTyeire House, a “living/ learning center” on campus. This exceptional dormitory promotes the use of foreign languages and the awareness of different cultures. Students speak their target language while living in McTyeire.

After Vanderbilt

A concentration in German gives majors and minors the necessary skills to go on to graduate studies in German or to choose from a wide range of academic disciplines linked to German culture such as philosophy, music, religious studies, sociology, psychology, engineering, biochemistry, and zoology. Moreover, as one of the global languages, knowledge of German is an asset in an increasingly competitive job market. More than 60 million Americans claim German heritage; 20 million people in the world currently are learning German as a foreign language. German is the most widely spoken language in Europe, is an official language in seven countries, and it is frequently used in business and science not only in Europe, but also in Russia and parts of Asia. 750 major American firms do business in Germany, while 1100 German companies do business in the U.S.


The German faculty takes a special interest in students’ progress, providing individual advice and encouragement in their studies both within and outside the department. We regularly teach in the Freshmen Seminar Program, in the Humanities and Honors Programs, in Women’s Studies, Film Studies, and European Studies. We are dedicated teachers and make accessibility outside of the classroom a priority. Our faculty’s research interests range from the eighteenth century to the contemporary. Representative thematic foci include the nexus of philosophy and literature, gender issues, cultural politics, and the history and theory of media.


Professor James McFarland
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of German, Russian, and East European Studies
119 Furman Hall, VU Station B 351567
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37235-1567
Phone: (615) 343-3188

German Studies Website