Does German Cultural Studies Need the Nation-State Model?

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2019


The nation‐state model has long been the basis for the institutional structure in place to teach languages, literatures, and culture at American universities and elsewhere. Nationalism was in fact formative for the establishment of the discipline of German literary and cultural studies itself—and not something brought into its disciplinary history from the outside, as Jakob Norberg, building on earlier research (see for instance Costabile‐Heming/Halverson; Hohendahl, German Studies; Denham/Kacandes/Petropoulos, and McCarthy/Schneider), in a recent issue of the German Quarterly has shown (“German Literary Studies and the Nation.” GQ 91.1, 2018, pp. 1–17). Over the past few decades, this history linking our profession to the nation‐state model has often been questioned by those teaching German literature and culture, while the status of German in general was institutionally quite secure and there was little reason to think about structural changes. This, however, has changed. Not only do fewer students in the United States and across the globe opt to major in German; administrators at many institutions increasingly prefer language, literature, and culture departments to be part of larger structures, thus (implicitly or explicitly) also questioning the value of the nation‐state model that so long has been part of our disciplinary history. In addition, scholars themselves in their teaching and research increasingly choose to emphasize the many global contexts of German literature and culture as meaningful for the study of German itself.




American Association of Teachers of German

Publication Information

The German Quarterly