Germanic Languages and Literatures

Dr. Lisa Parkes, Director of Undergraduate Studies, German
Dr. Agnes Broomé, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Scandinavian

The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures offers a rich and diverse program of literary and cultural studies, including film and music. We offer students the option to pursue a concentration in German Studies, Scandinavian Studies, or a joint concentration in German and another field. 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. At the same time, students will learn how the German-speaking and Nordic countries have influenced the development of Western culture and society. Our graduates are well positioned to understand the central role played by modern Germany in international politics and economics. They can explain why Germany takes the positions it does, the role of the European Union, and why international organizations call on distinguished members of the Scandinavian countries to represent them on taskforces involving matters of conscience. We aim above all to equip students with proficient language, analytical and critical skills for academic, professional, or personal use, as well as an understanding of the politics, culture, history, and ideas through literature, film, music, and other media. Thus, the program is designed not only for students who wish to pursue graduate study in Germanic studies, but also for students who choose careers in education, medicine, law, government, the social sciences, scientific research, business, the arts, design, and other fields.

Our department has a highly favorable ratio of full-time faculty to concentrators, which enables the faculty to provide students with individual guidance and support. Much of the tutorial work is done by full-time faculty, and all seniors writing a thesis have the opportunity to work individually with a professor. The department actively supports both work and study abroad, and all concentration options are designed to accommodate them.

There are no prerequisites for the concentration; however, students should first develop their language skills to meet the required level of proficiency. German language is offered from beginning to advanced levels; students with prior knowledge of German should take a placement test. Students may begin to study the German language with German 10 (elementary German) or with German 10ab (intensive elementary). Most concentrators in German take the sequence of German 20 (second year) and at least one 60-level course (third year) in order to prepare them for the 100-level courses. The introductory survey courses, German 101 and 102, count as the sophomore tutorial in German, though students are permitted to postpone this sequence until their junior year. Students interested in the Scandinavian concentration (or a Scandinavian language citation) are likewise urged to begin their language study as soon as possible. Students with prior knowledge of a Scandinavian language should contact Dr. Broomé for placement. Our program offers Swedish courses through the second-year level, from Swedish 10 (Beginning Swedish Language and Literature) to Swedish 20 (Special Topics in Swedish Literature and Culture), as well as Old Norse (Scandinavian 160a and 160br). Scandinavian 91r (Independent Study) is available for advanced language students. Danish, Finnish, modern Icelandic, and Norwegian are available as language tutorial courses (Scandinavian 90r.a-c). Students interested in these languages should contact Dr. Broomé at their earliest opportunity, preferably prior to the start of the academic term when they wish to begin their language study.

Concentrators desiring to be considered for honors write a senior thesis of 40 to 50 pages. The thesis is designed to demonstrate that a candidate can read and interpret a literary text or a complex cultural or social phenomenon with authority, insight, and originality, and that s/he is familiar with the major critical writings on the subject. All seniors are required to pass a one-hour oral or a three-hour written examination. The questions for this examination, designed to give students the opportunity to synthesize the knowledge they have gained from their studies, are based on individual reading lists submitted by each senior to a faculty committee. In addition, all graduating seniors are required to take a final language assessment in all four skills: speaking, listening, writing, and reading. The department offers an AB/AM degree option for Advanced Standing students. Information can be found on the department’s website; students interested in this option are encouraged to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies by the fall term of their third year.


  • German Studies
  • Scandinavian Studies

Basic Requirements for All Options

  1. Required courses: See Specific Requirements for each option.
  2. Tutorials:
    1. Sophomore year: Optional, see Specific Requirements.
    2. Junior year: Optional, see Specific Requirements.
    3. Senior year: German 99 (two terms) or Scandinavian 99 (two terms) required of honors candidates. Graded SAT/UNS.
  3. Thesis: Required of honors candidates only.
  4. General Examination: Required of all concentrators, including joint concentrators, in the senior year.
  5. Other information:
    1. Pass/Fail: None of the courses counted for concentration may be taken Pass/Fail except for 200-level courses.
    2. Courses counted for concentration credit must be passed with a grade of B- or above.
    3. The degree of honors recommended is based on the results of the general examination, the grade average, and the thesis evaluation.
    4. One of the Frameworks courses in the Humanities (Hum 11a–c) may count toward concentration credit.

German Studies
Specific Requirements

  1. Basic required courses: Nine courses (36 credits).
    1. Up to two courses in German on the 60 level (may be waived by Director of Undergraduate Studies on the basis of equivalent preparation).
    2. German 101 and 102.
    3. Three additional courses in German on the 100 level or above. 
    4. An additional three courses either in German or in related fields with sufficient focus on the German aspect of the field. In consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, students coordinate these courses into a coherent but flexible program of study. Courses may be selected from such fields as English; folklore and mythology; government; history; history of art and architecture; history of science; linguistics; literature; music; philosophy; psychology; religion; visual and environmental studies; women, gender, and sexuality; and others, including German itself.

      Up to three courses (combined from C and D) may be courses in which the instruction and readings are entirely in English. Together, these courses should address a wide spectrum of German culture from the medieval period to the present, and at least one should address a literary genre. 
  2. Courses required for honors eligibility: Eleven courses (44 credits). Same as Item 1, plus two terms of German 99 (Thesis Tutorial).
  3. Other information:
    1. The concentration is designed to make it possible to begin with Elementary German (German 10 or 10ab) in the freshman year and to complete the concentration without difficulty.
    2. At the student's request, concentration credit is granted, beyond the basic required courses, for second-year language courses (German 10a, 10b, or 10ab).
    3. One of the Frameworks courses in the Humanities (Hum 11a-c) may count toward concentration credit.

Joint Concentration Requirements

This option is intended for students who wish to combine the study of German culture and literature with the study of one other field significantly related to some aspect of the larger field of Germanic languages and literatures. Programs in German and history of art and architecture, German and music, and German and philosophy have been approved by the departments concerned. Programs in German and another literature, or German and another field may be submitted for approval of the departments concerned. For information about other possible combinations, consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Required courses: Twelve courses (48 credits).

  1. Five numbered courses in German, which should include German 101 or 102. Only one may be an introductory or survey course.
  2. Five courses in the related subject.
  3. German 99 (two terms). Thesis.

Scandinavian Studies
Specific Requirements

This option is intended for students who wish to combine the study of Scandinavian literature and culture with the study of some aspect of Western civilization closely related to a special area of the larger field of Scandinavian Languages and Literatures. Programs in Scandinavian and other literatures (including German), drama, folklore, history, linguistics, or an aspect of the social sciences may be submitted for approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Note that this is not considered a joint concentration and that the level of honors will be determined solely by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures.

  1. Basic required courses: Ten courses (40 credits).
    1. Six courses in Scandinavian (may include Scandinavian 91r and Scandinavian 97 and 98).
    2. Four courses in related subjects.
  2. Courses required for honors eligibility: Twelve courses. Same as Item 1, plus two terms of Scandinavian 99 (Thesis Tutorial).
  3. Other information: For a list of approved related courses, see the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who must also approve each concentrator's courses. One of the Frameworks courses in the Humanities (Hum 11a-c) may count toward concentration credit.


Departmental advising of concentrators in all three years is carried out by the Directors of Undergraduate Studies. Students meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in their field regularly at the beginning of each term and thereafter as desired (contact information can be found below).

For up-to-date information on advising in Germanic Languages and Literatures, please see the Advising Programs Office website.


Widener Library offers the most complete research collection in German and Scandinavian literatures, history, and civilization available in the United States. Valuable manuscripts and papers from the estates of such distinguished German poets as Hofmannsthal, Rilke, and Brecht and of such distinguished Scandinavian playwrights as Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, can be found in Houghton Library together with manuscripts from medieval Germany and Iceland. A unique and important resource is the Busch-Reisinger Museum, the only museum on this continent dedicated to Germanic art. The museum, located within the Fogg Museum, was established at the beginning of this century by Kuno Francke, a distinguished professor in the German Department, with the intention of acquainting language and literature students with the artistic heritage of the German-speaking peoples. The Goethe-Institut Boston (170 Beacon Street) offers a wide variety of lectures, exhibitions, films, and concerts on all aspects of Germany and its present and past culture, and the Scandinavian Library (206 Waltham Street, West Newton) likewise hosts lectures, a Nordic film series, and a weekly coffee hour. Students can gain additional practice in conversation by attending the German and Scandinavian tables held in the various Houses, a weekly Stammtisch at The Queen’s Head, or a monthly Kaffeestunde in the Barker Center. Harvard is also home to the German Club, the Harvard College Scandinavian Society, and the Harvard Club of Sweden.


More detailed information on all concentration programs can be obtained by contacting the Director of Undergraduate Studies for German, Dr. Lisa Parkes (,  617-495-3548 ); or the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Scandinavian, Dr. Agnes Broomé (, 617-496-4158). They are available to answer all questions regarding the department’s concentrations, and can provide students with reading guides, lists of courses approved each year, copies of past general examinations, etc. All potential concentrators are encouraged to contact them. The department’s offices are located in the Barker Center.  Additional information is available on our department website.


Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Germanic Languages and Literatures 3 6 4 4 4 5 5 7 4 3
Germanic Languages and Literatures + another field 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Another field + Germanic Languages and Literatures 0 1 0 0 2 1 1 1 3 3