German Literature Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Evelyn Ehrlich, Head, Humanities and General Reference, Librarian for German Language and Literature


The German collection supports CAS & GSAS programs in German through the doctoral level. Emphasis is on literature, language, and civilization. Civilization is interpreted here as including broader cultural works affecting the study of literature, including the theater and the cinema. Recent departmental interests include German exile literature; war and literature; German critical theory; and immigrant writing in German.

The collection also supports course work and research in the following programs: Comparative Literature; Dramatic Literature, Theatre History, and the Cinema; Literature in Translation; Women's Studies; and the Foreign Language Education Program at the School of Education.

The interdisciplinary approach of courses and research within the German department are supported by the various pertinent collections in art, history, philosophy, and the social sciences.


  1. Language

    The collection consists principally of literary texts and criticism in German. Works of major authors are also collected in English translation. Criticism, literary history, and theory are collected in German as well as in English. Works written in other Western European languages are collected very selectively.

  2. Geographical Areas

    Coverage includes a major emphasis on German literature of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and a representative body of German literature from the German immigrant ("Ausländer - Immigranten - Gastarbeiter") community.

  3. Chronological Periods

    Coverage of German literature is from the medieval period to the present with current emphasis on the late 18th, and the 19th and 20th centuries.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, serials, newspapers, proceedings, facsimiles, reprints, microforms, audio-visual and electronic media (including electronic texts). Exhibition catalogs and dissertations are acquired very selectively.

  2. Excluded

    Dissertations when requested only for individual research, manuscripts, textbooks, ephemera, maps.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

The retrospective collection of 19th-century literature is a strong research collection, especially for primary and secondary resources on Goethe and Schiller. More generally, special emphasis is placed on the literature dating from 1750 to the present, as well as on the works of modern philosophers and theorists (e.g., Habermas) and sociologists (e.g., U. Jaeggi and R. Dahrendorf).

Recently, efforts have been made to retrospectively collect important critical editions not acquired in the past. Furthermore, special attention has been paid to World War I, Weimar, pacifist and emigré literature. This included the acquisition of a private library of German literature imprints from the 20s and 30s and special collection items relating to pacifism, and literature and war.

The teaching of German language and linguistics and faculty research in this area have decreased; therefore, works are now selected quite stringently. However, there is an interest in research on second language acquisition.

Works in literary criticism, history, and theory, as well as subsidiary works relating to broader aspects of German culture important to literary research, are carefully selected so as to reflect the Department's needs and to maintain a representative collection of primary and secondary sources in all centuries.

Continuing efforts will focus on the development of a collection with particular strengths in the late 18th century and the 19th and 20th centuries, the acquisition of multiple copies of works in heavy demand, and the systematic identification and replacement of missing or worn volumes of standard works.

Other Resources

  1. Erich Maria Remarque's library and papers are available in Special Collections.

  2. Instructional materials (including language tapes acquired by the language lab) are available in the Lewis Levine Language Laboratory.

  3. For additional information regarding the library's collection in German see the following statements: Film and Broadcasting, Comparative Literature; Linguistics; Performing Arts; Philosophy and Religion; Politics; Sociology; World History.

Subjects & Collection Levels

Class Subject ECS CCI DES
PF3001-3599 German Language C B B
3801-3991 Old High German C A A
3992-4000 Old Saxon B A A
4043-4350 Middle High German - Modern A A B
5000-5844 German Dialects B A A
PT1-4899 German Literature
To 1050: Old High German Period In particular, translations of the biblical and liturgical texts; biblical poetry; medieval drama; early drama; early literary works. B B C

1050-1350: Middle High German Period. In particular, courtly epic; didactic poetry and prose; Minnesang; Nibelungenlied.


1350-1600: Renaissance and Reformation. In particular, anecdotal literature; drama; Humanism; fables and satire; Meistersang and Volkslied; Mysticism.


1600-1700: Baroque Period In particular, drama; epigram; novel; religious poetry; satire.


18th century Enlightenment; Rationalism (Thomasius, Leibnitz, Wolff); Sturm und Drang (Goethe, Schiller); Herder, Kant, Lessing, Wieland.


19th century In particular, Junges Deutchland; Realism; all six Romantic schools; the Schlegel brothers; the major philosophers of the century.


20th century In particular, Impressionism; Naturalism; Neo-romanticism; Symbolism; emigre literature; documentary drama; Horspiel.

PT881-951 Folklore and Folk Literature A A A
PT3801-3807 Provincial and Local (Germany) A A A
PT3810-3829 German Literature in Austria A C C
PT3860-3879 German Literature in Switzerland A C C
German Literature in Eastern Europe. In particular, the Balkans, Hungary, Poland and Russia. 0 0 0
PT3900-3971 German Literature Outside of Europe 0 0 0
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