This panel at the NEMLA Annual Convenion in Baltimore, 23-26 March 2017, will consider the question of how “German” literature has been conceived in the past, and of how such conceptions may be changing as we head into the future. We begin with the polyvalence of the adjective “German,” which can refer either to the language, or to an ethnic group, or to a nation-state (or to a pair of them, between 1949 and 1990). Does German literature as a shared language across national boundaries and through deep time possess an identifiable character? In what ways has literary historiography attempted to define this supposed character, to what ends, and with what results? What is the relationship between the “discovery” of German literary history by Jacob Grimm, Friedrich Schlegel, et al. and the concurrent invention of Weltliteratur? How has German literature been projected across the globe through the mechanisms of translation, anthologization, literary prizes and institutes? And with everyone from Argentines to Japanese to Arabs now using German as a literary language, how do we determine German literature’s transnational component and its place in New World Literature?