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, Norwegian, Icelandic, 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
  • GenEd 1012: The Art and Politics of Propaganda
  • Ger 143: German History: A User's Guide 
  • Ger 144: Freud and Psychoanalysis 
  • Ger 140: German Social Thought, Nietzsche to Habermas


  • FrshSem 31q: Literal Looking: What We See in Art
  • Scand 50: Scandinavian Cinema 
  • Ger 179: Austrian History in Literature
  • Ger 134:­­ Understanding Beethoven

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. 



Germanic Languages and Literatures Advising Events