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Studying English/North American Studies in Germany

Those studying English or American studies deal with the language, literature and culture of English-speaking countries
An article by Gabriele Meister

Studying English/North American Studies in Germany
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English / North American Studies

That is what it’s about

They read Shakespeare and Toni Morrison or analyse how English is spoken in South Africa and India: English and American students are scientifically involved with the literature, culture and language of English-speaking societies. Anglists focus on Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Americanists have the USA, Canada and the Caribbean in mind and at some universities also African countries. In addition, interdisciplinary research is growing with new fields such as digital humanities. Humanities researchers are thus reacting to the latest developments in culture and society and, for example, studying the impact of digitisation on literary research.

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This is how the course runs

In most cases, English and American Studies are offered in combination, often as "English and American Studies" or "British and American Studies". As a rule, the course is divided into literary studies, cultural studies, linguistics and language practice. Literary studies deal with the history and theory of texts, from medieval Beowulf to graphic novels like Art Spiegelman's Mouse. Cultural studies is about how books and films shape identities, everyday and protest cultures. In linguistics, students learn how the English language is constructed and how it is used, examining its historical evolution and looking at how English differs in different regions and between social groups. The technical training is accompanied by language practical courses. In these, students can practice conversation in small groups or write essays in English. In some cases, trips and stays abroad are mandatory.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How and why has the English language changed since the Middle Ages?
  • Why are series from the US so successful?
  • How do ethnic conflicts affect language, literature and film?
  • Why did English become a global language?
  • How important are novels, poems and plays for the preservation of democratic societies?
  • What can literary animal representations say about us as humans?
  • Why are there often alternative past tenses like "dreamed" and "dreamt"?
  • What do Shakespeare and Melville tell us today?
  • How have the new media changed political discourse?

The subject suits you,...

...if you not only like to speak English and watch American films, but you are also interested in the cultures of other countries and enjoy theoretical thinking. "Many study English because they were very good at school, and then they have to deal with literary, cultural and linguistic issues," says Catrin Gersdorf, professor of American Studies at the University of Würzburg and managing director of the German Society for American Studies. Good everyday English is no longer sufficient in the course. It is helpful to read a lot in English and to look at original versions before starting your studies. In addition, one should be interested in global developments, because, as Gersdorf says: "Americanists and Anglists examine the diverse interactions between the United States, Britain, and other countries and regions of the world."

Is there a numerus clausus?

About a quarter of the courses have an NC. It varies from university to university, but is rarely higher than two. It could be that a Latinum is required, but as an alternative, you can prove your knowledge of a second modern foreign language. In some places there are aptitude tests.

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