University of Michigan. Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures

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In 1847, the University of Michigan incorporated modern languages into its program of study with the introduction of French language and literature courses taught by Louis Fasquelle, LL.D., who had been appointed to the university the previous year. Instruction in German began in 1849, and replaced courses in Spanish and Italian that had begun in 1848. When German was introduced in 1849, the course of instruction in modern language was comprised only of two terms of French (one taken in the sophomore year and the other in the junior) and two terms of German (both to be completed during the junior year). In 1854, Fasquelle became the first professor of Modern Languages and Literature, and at the same time at which the German requirement for classical studies students was increased to three terms. In 1858, undergraduate lectures in German literature were added to the list of approved coursework for the master's degree. With the exception of one course in German literature, the German course of study was confined to written and oral grammar and translation exercises. It was not until Edward P. Evans joined the department (in 1862 on the death of Fasquelle), that the department included course offerings in German literature and Germanic philology.

Throughout the latter part of the 19th century the German program at the university experienced continued growth in faculty, students, and courses. The first professorship in German was made in 1887 when Calvin Thomas (1887-1895) became Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. It was at this point that the modern languages course of study was officially divided into two independent departments; the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. In this year the department offered its first seminar in German, and Swedish and Norwegian were introduced as new alternate year course offerings. The Department's curricular offerings broadened in the period between 1889 and World War I to include new courses and programs of study in Middle High and Old High German, 18th and 19th century German literature, literature of the Reformation, lyric poetry, linguistic science, the history of German literature, Old Icelandic, Old Saxon, Gothic, Old Norse, Faust , folklore (German and Old Saxon), German for engineering students (including descriptive prose and scientific German), and modern German sounds and syntax.

On the eve of World War I, the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures instructed a quarter of all the students enrolled in the literary and engineering colleges, an amount larger than other of the other modern languages. Upon the United States' entry into the War, however, the Department and the university as a whole saw its enrollment rates for men plummet. Like its counterparts at other universities, the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures fell prey to the nativist and anti-German sentiments of the times. In October 1917, the Board of Regents of the University dismissed Dr. Carl E. Eggert from the German Department. Eggert was accused by a prominent Michigan alumnus, Geology Professor William H. Hobbs, and German Professor John W. Scholl of sedition and promulgating pro-German propaganda in the classroom. Soon after, in March 1918, five additional German professors (Richard O. Ficken, Hermann J. Weigand, John Dieterle, and Warren W. Florer) were discharged for ideological reasons. Although the Regents presented scant evidence of the men's alleged pro-German sympathies, neither Eggert, nor his colleagues were to be rehired by the university. The dismissals of the six faculty members effectively cut the Department's faculty in half, with only four faculty remaining, one of whom was shifted to teaching French. Enrollment in the Department dropped to fewer than 100 students, from a peak of 1,300.

The interwar period witnessed the slow rebuilding of the Department's faculty, and a gradual increase in the number of classes offered, and the number of students enrolled. These gains continued through the fall of 1932, at which point the Depression's detrimental effects had become clear. By 1933, the Department's enrollment rates were at their lowest ever and it was not until 1935 that the numbers began to increase steadily once again.

During World War II, many of the Department's older faculty feared that the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature would disappear, as had almost happened in the wake of World War I. This proved not to be the case, however, and the war years were in fact a period of growth for the Department. While there was a decrease in the number of male students entering the Department as they and some faculty, such as Professor Otto Graf, enlisted in the armed forces, the Department experienced increased prominence during the war years for its involvement in the Army Specialized Training Program. The Department instructed thousands of soldiers and sailors in its intensive language and area studies courses.

The Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures continued to grow in the post-war period, in part as a result of its work during the war years and also due to the tremendous expansion of college enrollments at the university. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Department expanded its collaborative initiatives by participating in Michigan's Great Books Program for undergraduates, including comparative literature graduate students in the Department, supervising the work of high school teachers of modern languages, establishing the Deutsches Haus on campus (known as the Max Kade German House in honor of its benefactor Max Kade), and partnering with other universities to establish a Junior Year Abroad in Freiburg, Germany.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Department also dramatically expanded its curricular offerings. It added courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in an array of fields including, medieval literature, 16th and 17th century works, 19th and 20th century prose fiction, literary criticism, and modern and contemporary literature. The Department also expanded its scope of Germanic languages, reintroducing programs in Scandinavian (Norwegian, Swedish, and Old Norse language and literature) and Netherlandic. In 1967, the Department initiated a program in German language and readings as part of the foreign language offerings in the newly formed Residential College.

The Department continued to strengthen its curriculum in the 1980s with the additional courses in Scandinavian. In 1984, the Department revived its outreach efforts with middle and high school German instructors and their students by starting "German Day." "German Day" consisted of a series of fun competitions for middle and high school students (including contests in speaking, reading, poetry recitation, skits, art projects, and musical performance) designed to celebrate German language study, while at the same time introducing students and their teachers to the Department of Germanic Languages at the University. In 1986, in an effort to improve outreach to alumni, the Department initiated a newsletter, U of M Germanic News .

In the mid-1990s the Department once again undertook a review of its undergraduate programs. By 1996 most first year courses were taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty, and the Department had once again expanded its course offering to include undergraduate classes on mathematical and scientific German, German crime stories, post-War politics and society, the Magic Flute, and literary interpretation. The Department's commitment to undergraduate education was recognized by the students and the University when the Department won the LSA Student Government Departmental Excellence Award in 2002 and 2004.

  • 1887 - 1895 : Calvin Thomas
  • 1895 - 1899 : George A. Hench
  • 1899 - 1900 : George Hempl
  • 1900 - 1929 : Max Winkler
  • 1929 - 1934 : John W. Eaton
  • 1935 - 1960 : Henry W. Nordmeyer
  • 1960 - 1971 : Clarence K. Pott
  • 1971 - 1976 : V.C. Hubbs
  • 1976 - 1979 : Claiborne W. Thompson
  • 1979 - 1985 : Roy C. Cowen, Jr.
  • 1985 - 1991 : Robert L. Keyes
  • 1991 - 1992 : Frederick R. Amrine
  • 1992 - 1995 : Robert L. Keyes
  • 1995 - 2004 : Frederick R. Amrine
  • 2004 - 2007 : Geoffrey H. Eley
  • 2007 - : Helmut Puff

From the guide to the Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literatures (University of Michigan) records, 1929-2009, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

Germanic Languages and literature became an independent department at the University of Michigan in 1807, prior to that German language was taught under Modern Languages. Course offerings expanded to include German, Swedish, Norwegian, Gothic, Netherlands, and Yiddish.

From the description of Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literatures (University of Michigan) records, 1929-2009. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 436725806

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Diekhoff, Tobias Johann Casjen, 1867-. Tobias Johann Casjen Diekhoff papers, 1853-1931. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Mark, E. L. (Edward Laurens), 1847-1946. E.L. Mark student notes, ca. 1871. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf University of Michigan. Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literatures. Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literatures (University of Michigan) records, 1929-2009. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Goddard, Edwin C. (Edwin Charles), 1865-1942. Edwin C. Goddard papers, [ca. 1884]-[ca. 1940]. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literatures (University of Michigan) records, 1929-2009 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Florer, Warren Washburn, 1869-1958. Warren W. Florer papers, 1877-1955. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Spottswood, Mary Justina. Mary Justina Spottswood student notebooks, 1898-1901. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Thomas, Calvin, 1854-1919. Calvin Thomas papers, 1838-1940. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Warren W. Florer papers, 1877-1955 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Smith, Shirley Wheeler, 1875-1959. Shirley Wheeler Smith papers, 1881-1959. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Edwin C. Goddard papers, [ca. 1884]-[ca. 1940] Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Finney, Byron Alfred, 1849-1938. Byron A. Finney papers, 1845-1902. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Calvin Thomas Papers, 1838-1940, 1872-1919 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Shirley Wheeler Smith Papers, 1881-1959 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Finney, Byron Alfred, 1849-1938. Byron A. Finney papers, 1845-1935. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Smith, Benjamin Noble, d. 1921. Benjamin N. Smith papers, 1861-1864 and 1882-1909. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Jesse Siddall Reeves Papers, 1853-1942, 1901-1942 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Reeves, Jesse Siddall, 1872-1942. Jesse Siddall Reeves papers, 1853-1942. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Boucke, Ewald A. (Ewald Augustus), 1871-. Ewald A. Boucke correspondence, 1953. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Wilcox, Clifford. Clifford Wilcox papers, 1992. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Boucke, Ewald A. (Ewald Augustus), 1871- person
associatedWith Diekhoff, Tobias Johann Casjen, 1867- person
associatedWith Finney, Byron Alfred, 1849-1938. person
associatedWith Finney, Byron Alfred, 1849-1938. person
associatedWith Florer, Warren Washburn, 1869- person
associatedWith Florer, Warren Washburn, 1869-1958. person
associatedWith George, Emery Edward, 1933- person
associatedWith George, Emery Edward, 1933- person
associatedWith Goddard, Edwin C. (Edwin Charles), 1865-1942 person
associatedWith Goddard, Edwin C. (Edwin Charles), 1865-1942. person
associatedWith Graff, Otto G. person
associatedWith Graff, Otto G. person
associatedWith Mark, E. L. (Edward Laurens), 1847-1946. person
associatedWith Reeves, Jesse Siddall, 1872- person
associatedWith Reeves, Jesse Siddall, 1872-1942. person
associatedWith Reichart, Walter Albert, 1903-1999 person
associatedWith Reichart, Walter Albert, 1903-1999. person
associatedWith Smith, Benjamin Noble, d. 1921. person
associatedWith Smith, Shirley Wheeler, 1875-1959 person
associatedWith Smith, Shirley Wheeler, 1875-1959. person
associatedWith Spottswood, Mary Justina. person
associatedWith Thomas, Calvin, 1854-1919 person
associatedWith Thomas, Calvin, 1854-1919. person
associatedWith Wahr, Frederick B. b.1889. person
associatedWith Wahr, Frederick B. (Frederick Burkhart), b. 1889 person
associatedWith Wilcox, Clifford. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Germanic languages--Study and teaching
Language and languages--Study and teaching
Language and education
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1929

Active 2009

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