The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Page  595


AMONG American institutions the University of Michigan has always been prominent in the cultivation of the German language. It was early recognized that German ranked in cultural and practical value with the classical languages, and it came to be considered almost axiomatic that some knowledge of the language was necessary for every well-educated person. Until the time of World War I the enrollment in German was larger than that in any of the other modern languages, and, under the direction of a long succession of able and enthusiastic teachers, it exerted a powerful influence upon the educational program of the state.

The first evidence of any interest in modern languages in the University of Michigan is afforded by the appearance of the name of Louis Fasquelle, Professor of Modern Languages, in the Catalogue of the year 1846-47. During his first two years on the faculty his teaching was confined to one course in French. It was only one-third of a year long (one term), but was ordinarily required for graduation, as were all the courses listed. There were then no electives indicated, or even alternative curriculums. The French course was extended to two terms in 1848-49, at which time, according to the Catalogue, one term of Spanish and one of Italian were also taught. The latter two courses were replaced by German in the fall of 1849. That this pioneer work before 1850 was highly esteemed, however slight it may now seem, is to be seen from the Regents' annual report to the superintendent of public instruction for 1849:

It deserves to be particularly noticed, that they [the Regents] have introduced a system of extensive and efficient study in Modern Languages, running through the whole course, which will make all students acquainted with most of the modern languages of Continental Europe, and particularly the French, Spanish, Italian, and German. In Eastern Colleges, the Modern Languages are but an incidental study, during one or two terms of certain classes; and that, by students only who may elect them in preference to other branches. In this respect, our University possesses superior privileges; and meets, more extensively and efficiently, the wants of our educated youth, than any of our older Colleges. It is a new feature in College studies, and particularly appropriate to our Western States, filling up with a foreign population from nearly all the different nations of Europe.

(R.S.P.I., 1849, pp. 34-35.)

It may well be doubted that this exactly represented the situation, however, for in our own time it is only a very exceptional student who acquires much knowledge of a foreign language in two-thirds of a year, and the catalogues do not confirm the statement that instruction in modern languages ran "through the whole course."

Louis Fasquelle, 1849-62. — In 1849-50, when German made its appearance, the total amount of modern language work was comprised in two terms of German (junior year) and two terms of French (one term in the sophomore and the other in the junior year). Spanish and Italian were not offered again for nearly twenty years.

The increasing recognition of the importance of scientific studies led in 1852 to the introduction of a scientific course. Three terms each (an entire year) of French and German were required, and students in the classical course were also Page  596obliged to offer three terms of French, but only two of German. The more informative Catalogue of that year tells us what was done in the three terms:

  • First term: Grammar — Oral and written exercises in translating from English into German and from German into English.
  • Second term: Grammar continued — Oral and written exercises in German. Translation from German into English.
  • Third term: Grammar continued — Oral and written exercises on the idioms of the language. Schiller — Wilhelm Tell.

From this it would appear that the ground actually covered was about the same as, or a little less than, that which we at present cover in two semesters of a beginning class.

Fasquelle became Professor of Modern Languages and Literature in 1854-55. The same year, students in the classical course were obliged to include three terms of German, and when the University changed to the semester system in the fall of 1856, the requirement in each language remained at one year. In 1857, the German textbook prescribed was Woodbury's Method, and the students were still reading Wilhelm Tell in the second semester. It would seem that Fasquelle did not vary his work greatly. German became an elective subject for all students in 1855, although French remained as a requirement.

In 1858, courses approved for residence work by candidates for the master's degree were listed; these courses were selected from the regular undergraduate work. Among these were Fasquelle's lectures in French literature (first semester) and in German literature (second semester), which were the requirements in modern languages.

Edward P. Evans, 1862-70. — On the death of Fasquelle in 1862 Edward Payson Evans ('54) became an instructor and after a year was appointed to the professorship of modern languages. While carrying on advanced studies in Germany, he had developed an enthusiasm for the Prussian school system. He gave the details of the work in modern languages as follows — the first evidence that Germanic philology had reached Michigan:

The subjects taught in this Department embrace:

  • 1. The French and German languages.
  • 2. French and German literature.
  • 3. The general principles of Comparative Philology.

The method of instruction comprises translations, written and oral exercises, examinations and lectures. The following textbooks are used: Fasquelle's French Method; Fasquelle's Colloquial Reader; Dumas' Napoleon (Fasquelle's edition); Racine and Molière; Douai's German Grammar; Adler's German Reader; Adler's Handbook of German Literature.

(Cat., 1863-64, pp. 44-45.)

Students in the scientific course (see Part I: Tappan Administration) were required the next year to take four semesters of French, but only two of German, and Otto's German Grammar took the place of Douai's. A further semester of German was added in 1866-67 as an elective for students in the scientific course. Professor Evans listed some twelve books of reference:

In connection with the Lectures on Comparative Philology and Modern Literature, the following books of reference are recommended as most accessible to the student: … Dwight's Modern Philology, Max Müller's Science of Language and Survey of Languages, … the Works of Renan, Rask, Pictet, Nodier, and Wilhelm von Humboldt.

Until Evans' resignation in 1870 the requirements in both languages for those in the classical course remained at two years, with four semesters of each language for the scientific course. Evans also gave lectures on German literature.

George S. Morris, 1870-79. — George Sylvester Morris (Dartmouth '61, Ph.D. Page  597hon. Michigan '81) became Professor of Modern Languages in 1870, and under his direction the program of readings in German seems to have varied from year to year in the more advanced work. For example, in 1871 the senior students in the scientific course read Schiller's Wilhelm Tell and the Geschichte des dreissigjährigen Krieges.

The number of students was somewhat increased through the addition of civil engineering students in the fall of 1872 and students of mining engineering in February, 1874, but there was no addition to the amount of the language offered. The younger men in the department usually remained but a year or two and seem to have been compelled to divide their time between German and French. That the conception of the relative difficulty of texts was somewhat different from that of the present day is shown by the fact that in 1874 students in the classical course read Goethe's Faust in their second semester, while Wilhelm Tell was considered a logical text for the fourth. It must be borne in mind that the preparation of students was very different from that in our own day; in the forties all aspirants to the bachelor's degree had a thorough training in formal grammar and long practice in Latin and Greek.

Although the Calendar of 1874-75 was the first to contain a reference to the degree of doctor of philosophy, no graduate courses were available to students in German. The age of specialization had not yet arrived; anyone with linguistic training was eligible to teach several languages. Alfred Hennequin and Paul R. B. de Pont (see also Part II: Office of the Registrar; Part IV: Department of Romance Languages) appeared for years in the Calendar as teachers of both French and German, and Edward Lorraine Walter ('68, Ph.D. Leipzig '77), of the Department of Latin, not only taught modern languages as well as Latin, but subsequently became head of the Department of Modern Languages.

The advanced work (that is, the third and fourth semesters of study) in German consisted at that time of Goethe's Iphigenie and Dichtung und Wahrheit, O. Brosius' Schiller und sein Verhältniss zu dem Publikum seiner Zeit, Niebuhr's Tales of Greek Heroes (for translation into German), and lectures.

Calvin Thomas ('74, A.M. '77, LL.D. '04) became Instructor in Modern Languages in 1878-79. At that time the first-semester courses consisted of beginning German (four hours) and Emilia Galotti (five hours); and German plays, Goethe's Faust, and Geschichte der deutschen Literatur were studied in the second semester. There was no required work in modern languages for the degree of bachelor of arts, but for that of bachelor of science and for the bachelor's degrees in engineering (civil engineer and mechanical engineer), two semesters each of French and German were required, and for the bachelor of letters, four semesters each of French and German.

Edwin L. Walter, 1879-87. — Morris was succeeded in 1879 by Walter as Professor of Modern Languages.

A two-hour lecture course on the science of language by Thomas was included in the program, and two years later a further addition to the courses was offered — Herder's Geschichte der Menschheit.

The amount of work in German was gradually increasing, eighteen hours being offered in the first semester of the year 1883-84 and fifteen in the second.

Calvin Thomas, 1887-95. — The work in French and German was divided in 1887-88; Walter was made Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, and Thomas became Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. The first notice in the Calendar of a seminar course Page  598in German appeared at this time. A short course in Gothic was also listed, and scientific German was introduced, so that now a total of thirty-nine hours of work was offered during the year. About this time Swedish and Norwegian in alternate years were first offered by Thomas, one hour a week throughout the year. This broadening of the program was carried further in 1889, when Alexis Frederick Lange ('85, Ph.D. '92), Instructor in German and Anglo-Saxon, taught courses in Middle High and Old High German, and Thomas gave seminars in German literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The courses in Old High German were taken over in 1890 by George Allison Hench (Lafayette '85, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins '89), Instructor in German. Max Winkler (Harvard '89, Ph.D. '92) was at that time appointed Instructor in German and offered successive courses in literature of the Reformation and lyric poetry, and Professor Thomas added to his other work a seminar for teachers and courses in linguistic science and the history of German literature.

In May, 1891, Hench was made Assistant Professor and in 1891-92 gave a course in German grammar from a historical and comparative point of view. During the same year Thomas tried the experiment of giving a course in Old Icelandic. In addition to two years of preliminary work thirty-three hours of advanced work were now offered each year.

The instructors in German appointed at about that time were Jonathan August Charles Hildner ('90, Ph.D. Leipzig '99) in 1891, Ernst Heinrich Mensel (Carthage '87, Litt.D. ibid. '20, Ph.D. Michigan '96) in 1892, and Tobias Johann Casjen Diekhoff ('93, Ph.D. Leipzig '99) in 1893.

Old Saxon was added to the schedule in 1894, and appeared at intervals in the Calendar from that time on.

With the establishment of the separate Department of Engineering in 1895, two sections in beginning German for engineering students were formed. These classes were taught by Diekhoff, who also gave advanced courses in descriptive prose and scientific German. Until the spring of 1928, however, modern language instruction in the College of Engineering was independent of that in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

George A. Hench, 1895-99. — While Professor Thomas was absent on leave in 1895-96, he accepted a call to Columbia University, and George Allison Hench, then Acting Professor of German, succeeded him in the headship of the department. Ernst Voss (Ph.D. Leipzig '95) returned as Instructor; and Edwin Carl Roedder ('93, Ph.D. '98, Litt.D. '38) entered the department with an assistantship. Winkler at that time gave a course in Faust, through both semesters, but no Scandinavian was offered that year, although in 1896-97 Hench, as Acting Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, offered courses in Gothic and Old Norse. He was appointed to a full professorship in the spring of 1897, and in the next year's Calendar special work for prospective teachers was first specifically announced. Warren Washburn Florer (DePauw '90, Ph.D. Cornell '97) and John Edward Lautner ('95, M.L. '96) were made instructors in German, and with the growth of the department two more were added in the fall of 1898, Ewald Augustus Boucke (Ph.D. Freiburg '94) and Ernst J. Fluegel. The name of George Hempl ('79, Ph.D. Jena '89, LL.D. Michigan '15) first appeared that year in connection with the Department of German, although his work was not specified. He subsequently offered in the Department of English a course in phonetics which was also listed with the Page  599work in German. Courses in Old Saxon and German folklore were offered. The amount of advanced work beyond the junior grade had now reached twenty hours a week.

George Hempl, 1899-1900. — In August, 1899, Professor Hench was killed in an accident, and George Hempl, Professor of English Philology and General Linguistics, was temporarily placed in charge of the Department of German. He entered actively into the teaching, giving courses in Gothic, modern German sounds, methods of teaching German, and German syntax.

Max Winkler, 1900-1929. — In the spring of 1900, Max Winkler was made Acting Professor of German and was given temporary charge of the department; two years later he was appointed Professor of the German Language and Literature. The same two years saw the appointment of Herbert DeWitt Carrington (Yale '84, Ph.D. Heidelberg '97), Carl Frederick Augustus Lange ('94, Ph.D. '03), Carl Eggert (Iowa '86, Ph.D. Chicago '91), and John William Scholl ('01, Ph.D. '05), all as instructors. The advanced work in the department was rising continually and in 1902-3 amounted to sixty-eight hours. A course in Old Icelandic, by Boucke, indicated a revived interest in Scandinavian, which, however, was not given again until 1907.

The first official mention of extracurricular faculty activity was made in the announcement of the department for 1903-4, as follows:

Journal Club. — Meetings of instructors and advanced students of the German Department are held every two or three weeks throughout the year, at which reports are made of important contributions to German philology and literature.

(Cal., 1903-4, p. 74.)
Departmental notices also attested the growing importance of the training of teachers. "The requirements of the teacher's diploma in German is twenty-five hours of work in the Department selected after consultation with the professor in charge" (Cal., 1905-6). By this time Hildner, Boucke, Florer, and Eggert had been advanced to assistant professorships; and Diekhoff had been appointed Junior Professor. Throughout this period, because of a growing interest in German, instructors were added from time to time, and by 1909 there were seven sections for freshmen, ten for sophomores, and seven for juniors, with fifty-five hours of electives for upperclass and graduate students. In 1912 Boucke received a full professorship. In 1911 he had developed a course in Norwegian literature in English, the only work offered in Scandinavian for the next fourteen years. Throughout this period instructors changed rapidly. Among appointments wasthat of Fred B. Wahr ('12, Ph.D. '15) in 1912 as an instructor.

With the advent of the first World War a feeling against study of the German language and culture spread throughout the country, but was not immediately apparent in the University. In 1916-17 the twelve staff members were teaching nine freshman sections and nine sophomore sections, in addition to many advanced classes. The following year, however, the enrollment dropped to three freshman sections and seven sophomore sections, and three members of the faculty, Eggert, Florer, and Boucke (who had retained his German citizenship) left the University faculty. Frederick William Peterson (Lake Forest '11, A.M. Michigan '16) was transferred from an instructorship in the Department of Engineering English to a similar position in this department in 1916. After a year he became Instructor in Rhetoric. By 1918 Wahr was in military service, and as a result of the various changes, only three men — Winkler, Diekhoff, and Hildner — remained, and only a few sections in elementary Page  600work and twelve hours of senior and graduate work were offered each semester. Work in Scandinavian fell to zero once more; it did not benefit by the misfortunes of its sister language as did the Romance languages. Enrollment fell from a peak of 1,300 to less than 100.

During the first postwar years, return to the study of German was very slow, though there was sufficient development to justify a gradual increase in the faculty. Wahr returned to become Assistant Professor in 1921, and Scholl in 1922 became Associate Professor. During the years 1923 and 1924, however, an increasing number of elementary students necessitated the appointment of five new instructors, among whom was Arthur Van Duren, Jr. ('23, Ph.D. '30), and a further increase in enrollment by 1925 allowed the appointments of Norman Leroy Willey (Syracuse '08, Ph.D. Michigan '25) as Assistant Professor and of Walter Albert Reichart ('25, Ph.D. '30) and three others as instructors.

In 1925-26 the faculty consisted of two professors, two associate professors, two assistant professors, and seven instructors. Work in beginning German was again offered in the second semester. Scientific German became an alternative in the third and fourth semesters, thirteen hours of optional work was offered in the junior courses, and the advanced work totaled twenty-four hours. Courses in Norwegian and Old Norse were again undertaken. The journal club was revived in 1926. Almost every year there was an increase in the number of instructors, among them one of the present members of the staff, Philip Diamond ('22, A.M. '27).

John W. Eaton, 1929-35. — John Wallace Eaton (A.M. Dublin '12, LL.B. Saskatchewan '23, Litt.D. Dublin '29) was called from the University of Saskatchewan in 1929 to become Professor of German and Chairman of the Department, following the retirement of Professor Max Winkler, who died on March 14, 1930. The German staff in the Department of Modern Languages in the College of Engineering had been consolidated with that of the department in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and in this way three new members were added to the faculty: Alfred Oughton Lee (M.S. Berlin '94, M.D. ibid. '98), Professor of Modern Languages, Edmund Wild (Texas '03, M.S. ibid. '09), Associate Professor of German, and Aloysius Joseph Gaiss (Alfred Univ. '18, Ph.D. Michigan '29), Assistant Professor. In 1929-30 the work in the department included nineteen sections of beginning German, with two extra off-semester courses; ten sections of sophomore German; six sections of junior work; four extra hours of electives; and ten hours of graduate electives. Ten hours' work in Scandinavian was also offered each semester. The following year there were twenty-four sections of beginning German, and this continued growth in enrollment necessitated the appointment of five more instructors. Willey became Associate Professor, and Reichart and Van Duren were advanced to assistant professorships.

There was a decline to seventeen regular sections of freshman work in the autumn of 1932, an effect of the financial depression. Although the enrollment gradually increased after its lowest point in 1933, the retrenchment in the number of courses continued. During the year 1935 Professor Tobias J. C. Diekhoff and Associate Professor Edmund Wild were taken by death.

Henry W. Nordmeyer, since 1935. — Henry W. Nordmeyer (Ph.D. Wisconsin '14), of New York University, became Professor of German and Chairman of the Department of German in 1935. Since then the enrollment has increased, and the work has been expanded. Page  601There were 1,035 students enrolled in the department in 1939-40.

Methods of instruction. — German instruction in the University of Michigan has, of course, been exposed to the various pedagogical fads of the teaching profession and of educational experimenters during the course of nearly a century, but the sane views of the various heads of the department have always prevented great excesses. With prudent conservatism the department has kept in mind the fact that this is an American institution, hence the main objective of the instruction is a reading knowledge of the German language.

In Professor Fasquelle's time there was little to distinguish the teaching of ancient and of modern languages; both were impressed upon the student's mind by dictionary, grammar, and written work, whereas conversation was practically ignored.

With Evans, Thomas, and Hench, Germanic philology was stressed and the interrelations of English and the foreign language were emphasized. Under Hempl's brief chairmanship German phonetics assumed major importance and a good pronunciation was considered the principal essential of any serious work. The direct-method system of instruction reached the University of Michigan shortly after the new century began, but Winkler's conservative attitude prevented its being carried to extremes in the German classrooms.

The present tendency to treat a modern language as a mere incidental in the cultural pattern of the foreigners who speak it — to relegate German linguistic instruction to the position of an orientation course in German civilization — has at present no advocates in our corps of instructors.

The faculty of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures has included the names of a considerable number of outstanding scholars. Edward P. Evans lived abroad after his resignation and became a scholar and littérateur of acknowledged importance, writing with equal facility books in German and in English, e.g., Evolutional Ethics and Animal Psychology (1898), Beiträge zur amerikanischen Literatur- und Kulturge-schichte (Stuttgart, 1898).

Professor Calvin Thomas was in his day perhaps the best-known Germanic scholar in America, and his Complete German Grammar still remains the outstanding textbook in its class. He was especially proficient in his work on Goethe and was a pioneer among American scholars in employing the Weimar archives. His edition of Faust was his most important contribution in this field, although his Tasso and Hermann und Dorothea give abundant evidence of his accuracy and erudition.

George Allison Hench was a distinguished philologist and research scholar of his day, already recognized on both sides of the Atlantic, although he was only thirty-three at the time of his death. His great contributions to philology are the Monsee Fragmente and Der althochdeutsche Isidor, but his name also appears under many articles in scholarly publications of his time.

Max Winkler was a worthy successor of such men as Thomas and Hench, and his great erudition is evidenced by his meticulously annotated editions of many German classics, for example, Emilia Galotti, Egmont, Wallenstein, and Iphigenie.

Jonathan A. C. Hildner, whose retirement came in 1938, leaves behind him the record of a long career of inspirational teaching and the remembrance of a fatherly interest in his students. Professor Hildner also was the author of many books and articles, of which the most notable is, possibly, his scholarly edition of Götz von Berlichingen.

Page  602Tobias J. C. Diekhoff also long occupied an important position on the staff and is remembered with affection by many old graduates. His best book was his annotated edition of Nathan der Weise.

Several of the men on the staff who gained no especial recognition from publications in the field of Germanic studies were nevertheless most efficient in their classroom work and contributed much more than their share to the popularity of the department. Among these may be mentioned Ernst Heinrich Mensel, a genial and genuinely loved instructor, who was later a well-known professor at Smith College.

A good number of those whose names appear but transitorily on our faculty lists have attained great distinction in the field elsewhere: Professor Thurnau (University of Kansas), Professor Hollander (Texas), Professor Boucke (Heidelberg), Professor Weigand (Yale), Professor Roedder (New York University), and Professor Lussky (Arkansas).

The total number of advanced degrees in German through June, 1940, was 243. Of these 41 were degrees of doctor of philosophy and 202 were master's degrees — 2 of philosophy, 1 of science, and 199 of arts.

The range of subjects treated in the department in the days of Winkler comprises in itself a liberal education. For example, in the second semester of 1909-10 twenty-six distinct German courses for seniors and graduates were offered. These included work in Hauptmann, Arno Holz, Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, Hebbel, two courses in Middle High German, Old High German, Old Saxon, German art and culture of the nineteenth century, the history of German literature, conversation and composition courses, a teachers' course, four proseminars, and the history of the German language.

All this suffered an abrupt change under the influence of the political events of the years 1914-18, and the department has never completely recovered the proportional enrollment it formerly enjoyed, although it has been directed by competent scholars and has received sympathetic support from the University authorities. The present unbalanced enrollment in favor of the elementary courses, which the University has in common with most American universities, is probably caused largely by the fact that entering students usually present themselves without any preparation in the language.


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Farrand, Elizabeth M.History of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: Register Publ. House, 1885.
General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.
Hinsdale, Burke A.History of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1906.
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Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1864-1940.
Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Michigan, 1849. (R.S.P.I.)
Shaw, Wilfred B.A Short History of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: George Wahr, 1934.
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