Our Mission: Thinking Across Cultures

At Berkeley we are mindful of our position as a foreign language and culture department within the increasingly diverse American context. In that awareness, we attempt in our teaching, research, and advising to tap the creative energy that arises from cultural differences--not only between the US and the German-speaking nations of Europe, but also among the multi-ethnic cultural communities that our students represent. Hence we understand the nature of our enterprise to be emphatically intercultural. All of our instruction, from the most elementary language courses to the most advanced seminars and dissertation advising, reflects this. A dynamic site for intellectual pursuit, the department has contributed importantly in the last two decades to redrawing the boundaries of the discipline, making it more open to modern media studies, related fields, and new methodologies.

During this exciting period of experimentation, several colleagues insisted on keeping alive the dialogue between the new and the old, and the program profited from this. Recognizing the mutually enriching influences of literature and cultural studies, we have insisted on while maintaining the essential role of German literature in German Studies. We have chosen not to divorce the study of literature from the larger study of culture, because in our view aesthetics and history illuminate each other. In general, we seek to mediate between the analysis of literature as cultural evidence and the appreciation of literary language in its own terms, between close textual analysis and theory-driven inquiries, between high culture and popular media, and between scholarship and social concerns.

The strength of the faculty is diversity, both in their areas of research and in their methodologies. We do not advocate any single approach, nor do we have a homogeneous vision of the department's mission beyond the shared concern that our students gain a heightened sensitivity to language and representation, theory and methodology, translation and cultural transfer, and the power as well as the critical potential of discourse.

Students of all backgrounds and interests find themselves at home in the Berkeley German department. We encourage our students to complement their coursework in German by taking classes in other departments. Interdisciplinary training is facilitated by the requirement that students include faculty from other disciplines as members of their doctoral examination and dissertation committees. In addition, several members of the German faculty have affiliations with other departments and programs: for example, Comparative Literature, Scandinavian, Theater Arts, Medieval Studies, Education, Jewish Studies, and Film Studies.