German at Berkeley: Past, Present and Future
The study of German language and literature has been a key part of the University’s curriculum from its start in 1869. Initially, only four Western European languages—including German—were taught by just one professor, Paul Pioda. In 1874, Albin Putzker became the first official professor of German language, and ten years later a separate German Department, consisting of two members, was established. During its first 20 years, the department offered only limited courses and lacked a cohesive graduate program. Teaching loads were heavy at about 12-14 hours per week, and one person would typically be responsible for teaching elementary German, Middle High German, Gothic and Schiller—all in one semester. Because German was required for many science majors, it was studied by about approximately one-third of the student body. However there were few German majors.
The turn of the century saw a marked advancement in German studies at Berkeley. Following the appointment of president Wheeler in 1899 and of German Professor Hugo Schilling in 1901, the department began to flourish. By 1907, the German Department boasted 8 full time faculty members, student enrollment increased, and undergraduate and graduate course options expanded. In 1906, 25 students received the B.A. degree with a German major and two took the M.A. Degree. 1908 saw the first dissertation on a German topic at Berkeley.
The decade beginning in 1910 was a period of transition for the department as new appointments were made in the wake of several deaths and retirements. During and after WW I, student enrollment dropped sharply and the department was critized for the supposed pro-German sentiments of some of its faculty. There was, however, a steady increase in student numbers in the late 1920s and 1930s, reaching a total of about 1,600 on the eve of World War II. The decline during the war years was more than offset immediately after the war; in 1946, no fewer than 2,172 students enrolled in German courses.
After WW II the German Department continued to expand and soon became the largest in the United States. In the middle 1960s, there were 23 full-time staff members, 65 to 70 teaching assistants, and three non-academic employees. This faculty served a student population which in 1963 numbered 1,893 in the lower division and 438 in the upper division; 121 students enrolled in graduate courses. The department continued to provide a liberal arts education to some 90 to 100 undergraduate majors and a professional training as scholars and teachers to some 80 or 90 graduate students.
The department’s most influential faculty members include: Albin Putzker (1874-1906; head of department, 1874-1900); Hugo K. Schilling (1901-30; chairman, 1901-24); Clarence Paschall (1902-43; chairman, 1924-37); Lawrence M. Price (1914-51); Clair Hayden Bell (1909-54); Edward V. Brewer (1921-54; chairman, 1945-54); Archer Taylor (1939-58; chairman, 1940-45); C. Grant Loomis (1941-63; chairman, 1957-62); and Hans M. Wolff (1946-58.)
Today, more than 120 years later, the German Department at Berkeley has a dozen faculty members, several lecturers, and more than thirty graduate students in German literature and Germanic linguistics. We offer a full-fledged lower and upper division German language program and teach courses in German literature on subjects ranging from the Middle Ages to the present. We also study larger issues such as national identity, modernity, historicity, subjectivity, translation, gender, and multiculturalism from a comparative perspective that is informed by contemporary theory and cultural studies. We examine issues in stylistics and discourse analysis, and interrogate the nexus of language, power, and identity. We try to think in crossdisciplinary terms and examine ways in which our study of things German relates to our cultural moment here and now.
In Germanic linguistics we use the most recent theoretical methods to analyze the sounds, forms, and vocabulary of the German language, its development over time, and its ever-changing sociocultural role as a world language. Our graduate students get thorough training in language teaching methodology and become familiar with issues of second language acquisition.
Both the size and diversity of our program allow us to balance thorough coverage of the basics with innovative thinking aimed at crossing borders. We have the critical mass to let our students explore interests outside the department and study with established experts. In these courses, our graduate students interact with students from across campus by all accounts a most beneficial experience. We currently offer Designated Emphases in Film Studies and in Gender and Sexuality, and will soon add another in Applied Linguistics. These amount to subject minors at the Ph.D. level.
For the last half century the Berkeley German Department has consistently been recognized as one of the premier programs in the United States. In 1995 the National Research Council’s most recent survey of graduate programs ranked our department number one among German Departments in the country.