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German Literature

I. Program Information

The Department offers a full program through the graduate level in the literatures and culture of German-speaking Europe from the Middle Ages to the present day. The field is strongly interdisciplinary, reaching into areas such as history, philosophy, art history, political theory. Courses on the history of German film are also integrated into the department's program.

Faculty research addresses all periods of German literature and culture from medieval times to the twenty-first century.

II. Collection Description

The Library's excellent collection of materials in historic and comparative German linguistics, one of the strongest in the U.S., is based on the library of the Rostock philologist and folklorist Reinhold Bechstein (1833-1894) that was acquired by Penn in 1896. There is a 1,600 volume Frisian collection and a relatively strong collection of scholarship on German dialects and old Scandinavian. A core collection of Yiddish books was donated in the 1990s through the National Yiddish Book Center. Special Collections houses a collection of some 900 books published during the Nazi era.

The collections in German literature are strong general collections, adequate to support graduate study and much faculty research.

The focus has always been on works by and about canonical authors, although the emergence of cultural studies and a new interest in women and minority authors have brought a significant expansion to the scope of the collection (e.g., the acquisition of a rare run of the Weimar women's journal Die Dame).

In recent years the Library's collections in support of the study of German literature, history and culture has expanded to includes significant numbers of Hörbücher (especially of author's reading their own works) and German films, of which, as of 2008, there are some 400+ German titles on video and dvd.

Large microform sets include the two major U.S. German Baroque collections, two collections of sixteenth century Flugschriften, and the collection Deutsche Zeitschriften des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts.

The library provides networked access to long runs of journals provided under the rubric DigiZeitschriften ("the German JSTOR"), to the Bibliothek deutscher Klassiker and the complete works of Goethe (the so-called Weimarer or Sophien Ausgabe).

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    All periods.

  2. Formats

    Monographs and serials, in all formats (including Hörbücher). Dissertations, very selectively. Habilitationsschriften are generally acquired. The Library organizes and maintains collections of subject-based Internet links useful to students and scholars. Sites devoted to German literature are included in the German Studies page. When dvd's and videos are acquired, preference is given to versions with subtitles and in formats compatible with U.S. players.

  3. Geographical

    The Library acquires German, Austrian and Swiss imprints.

  4. Language

    Primarily German and English.

  5. Publication Dates

    Emphasis is of necessity on current materials, although selective retrospective purchasing is undertaken as circumstances require and funds allow.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

The Library has an active approval plan with Otto Harrassowitz for current publications in German language and literature. This is augmented by use of their bibliographic form selections.

Selective works in contemporary fiction in Dutch/Flemish are received primarily through a small approval plan with Coutts.

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Old German Dialects, Old Icelandic, Old Norwegian 4/3F
Dutch Language and Literature 2/2F
History of the German Language 4/3F
German Literature
Medieval German 3/3F
Baroque 3/3F
18th Century 3/3F
19th Century 3/3F
20th Century 3/3F
Contemporary belles lettres 3F
Literary theory 3/3F
Cultural studies 3/3F
Film 2/3F
Minority studies in German literature 2/3F

VI. Subjects Excluded

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

The Joseph Horner Memorial Library of the German Society of Pennsylvania is an important local resource with approximately 86,000 volumes and notable strengths in German-Americana and nineteenth-century German popular fiction.