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The Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literature was created to offer students the opportunity to study the German language and the literature of Germany at Duke University. Most of the collection ranges in date from 1960-1985. A majority of the material was accumulated and created by Herman Salinger (Department chair, 1955-1970 and faculty member, 1955-1975); and Leland Phelps (faculty member, 1961-1985 and department chair, 1970-1983). Material includes various correspondence concerning academic appointments, administrative matters, and curriculum. Major subjects include graduate students and graduate study, various committees, study abroad programs, and publications. Files pertaining to the Harold Jantz Collection are also present.

Collection contains material accumulated during the chairmanships of Herman Salinger, Leland Phelps and Ann Marie Rasmussen, and range in date from 1949-2013. A majority of the material is in English; however, there are items in German interspersed throughout. A bulk of the material dates from 1960-1985, then 2000-2008. The collection is divided into four series: Herman Salinger, Leland Phelps, Department Chair and Director of Graduate Study, and Ann Marie Rasmussen. The Herman Salinger series contains material accumulated and created by Salinger during his tenure at Duke University, as department chair (1955-1970) and as a faculty member. Major subjects include graduate students, job applicants and inquiries, course materials, departmental publications, correspondence, and a file containing materials prior to Salinger's chairmanship. Among the name files are Clement Vollmer, Allan M. Cartter and Peter Ilkow, a German instructor at Duke from 1956 until his suicide in 1958. The Leland Phelps series contains material accumulated and created by Leland Phelps while serving as department chair (1970-1983) and as a faculty member. Material includes general correspondence, departmental meetings, and commitments. Among the major subjects are publications: Creative Encounters: Festschrift for Herman Salinger and Aus Unserer Zuit; foreign study and study abroad programs; the Munster Program; and material concerning the establishment of a language lab at Duke University. The Phelps series is also divided into two sub-series: Harold Jantz Collection files and Committee files. The Jantz Collection files contain material relevant to the acquisition and promotion of the collection including conferences and publications. Various committees on which Phelps served constitute the committee files sub-series. As both Phelps and Salinger served in the department simultaneously from 1961-1970, there is some overlap of materials. The third series contains material pertaining to the departmental chair, including Salinger and Phelps, and the director of graduate study, 1966-1983. The fourth series contains materials related to Ann Marie Rasmussen's time as faculty member (1988-2016) and chair of the department (2006-2008), and includes information on the development of the German Studies PhD program, the joint PhD program with UNC-Chapel Hill, funding and grant information, and other materials.