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GE1: Introduction to German Studies

This paper is available for the academic year 2023-24.

New students in Michaelmas 2023: for advice on how to prepare for GE1, please click here.

GE1 introduces students to the many different aspects of German culture taught at Cambridge: literature of all periods as well as film, linguistics, history and thought. No prior knowledge of any of these areas is presumed. Each module covers the topic “from scratch” and provides students with the relevant analytical skills. Having completed GE1, students will have a better sense of  what German studies at Cambridge entail and what courses to take at Part IB (the second year) and Part II (the fourth year).

The paper consists of the following six modules:


Medieval and Early Modern​ Literature

Hartmann von Aue: Iwein (from October 2024, this will be replaced by Herzog Ernst)

Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg: Geistliche Sonnette, Lieder und Gedichte

Andreas Gryphius: Gedichte

The poems by Greiffenberg and Gryphius can be found here.

Modern Literature I: the 18th and 19th Centuries

Goethe: Urfaust (from October 2024, this will be replaced by Goethe's Faust. Erster Teil)

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff: Die Judenbuche

Modern Literature II: the 20th Century and Film

Kafka: Die Verwandlung

Grisebach: Western (from October 2024, this will be replaced by Akin, Auf der anderen Seite)

History: Imperial Germany 1871-1918 – Authoritarianism and Modernism

Bismarck’s Chancellorship

The Reign of Wilhelm II



Linguistics: Language and Lexicography

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Deutsches Wörterbuch

Konrad Duden: Deutsche Rechtschreibung

Thought: Marx and Nietzsche

Marx and Engels: Das Kommunistiche Manifest

Nietzsche: Jenseits von Gut und Böse

Preparatory reading: 

Students should familiarise themselves with the materials for all six GE1 modules so that they can make informed choices, as they move through the year, about the four topics on which they would like to be supervised. Before they come to Cambridge, they should concentrate on the texts set for those modules for which lectures are scheduled in the first term (Michaelmas).

A preparatory reading list and module descriptions can be found here.

Moodle Reading List: 

A full reading list, with learning resources, is available on the GE1 Moodle Site (for current students with a Raven password)

Teaching and learning: 

Four lectures are devoted to each of the six modules. It is expected that students attend all lectures and that they have supervisions on four of the six modules. In most cases, students will be seen by more than one supervisor over the course of their studies for this paper. Supervisions will be arranged by Directors of Studies and, wherever possible, will be timetabled to follow the relevant lectures.


Assessment is by end of year examination. There are questions on all six modules and candidates can answer any three questions.

Course Contacts: 
Andrew Webber (Michaelmas Term)
Sarah Colvin (Lent and Easter Term)