Germanic Languages and Literatures

Brief Description of Concentration

students in front of german flagOur program invites you to explore the languages, literatures, societies and cultures of the German-speaking and Scandinavian regions of Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein; and Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. We offer language courses in German and Swedish as well as tutorials in Danish, Dutch, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Old Norse, all of which provide a gateway to an exciting exploration of the tremendous impact these cultures have had on the development of Western civilization – from the Vikings to the present day. 

Learning Objectives

Our goal is to provide students with the enriching experience of studying languages, literatures, and cultures different from their own so they can gain new perspectives on their languages and countries of origin. By acquiring proficiency in German, Dutch, or a Scandinavian language, students will gain a lasting skill useful in many fields of endeavor. Advanced study builds on these foundations by further developing critical and creative thinking, by teaching students how to pursue their own research questions, and by making deeper connections to related fields of study, including philosophy, comparative literature, music, art history, media studies, theater and the visual arts.

Gateway Courses

Freshmen are encouraged to take language courses in the department at the appropriate level as determined by the Harvard Placement test in German or their SAT II test. We offer both regular and intensive language courses at the beginning and intermediate level as well as a third- year language sequence in German. 


  • Frsh Sem 63L: Memory Wars: Cultural Trauma and the Power of Literature
  • German 10a: Beginning German 
  • Swedish 10a: Beginning Swedish 
  • German 143: German History from Bismarck to Hitler 


  • German 10b: Beginning German 
  • Swedish 10b: Beginning Swedish II 
  • German 146: The Ethics of Atheism: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud 
  • German 171: Just Law? Truth, Trial & Error in German Literature 
  • German 180: Bargaining with the Devila; The Faust Legend 

We offer further opportunities for language study through the Harvard Summer School: Intensive advanced German in Vienna and Berlin, and a fully, not merely token, interdisciplinary HSS course on the historical, literary and material culture aspects of the period known as the Viking Age (ca. AD 750- 1100) is offered in Scandinavia. 



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