Jennifer Kapczynski

​Associate Professor of German
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
research interests:
  • 20th- and 21st-Century German Literature and Film (West and East)
  • Cinema Studies
  • Theory and History of Democratization
  • Representations of Political Subjectivity
  • Gender Theory
  • Holocaust Studies
  • War and Representation

contact info:

office hours:

  • On Leave 2017-18
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mailing address:

  • CB 1104
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899

Professor Kapczynski’s research focuses principally on twentieth century literature and film. ​Her current book project explores the reconstruction of masculinity in West German cinema of the 1950s.

Kapczynski’s monograph The German Patient: Crisis and Recovery in Postwar Culture appeared with University of Michigan Press in 2008. The book examines the place of disease in discussions of German guilt after 1945, and demonstrates that illness provided a key framework for postwar thinkers attempting to explain the emergence and impact of fascism.

She has published articles on a range of subjects, from the writings of Heinrich Böll to Heinrich von Kleist, from American war films to post-unification German cinema. She has also co-edited three volumes: Die Ethik der Literatur, with Paul Michael Lützeler; A New History of German Cinema, with Michael D. Richardson; and most recently, Persistent Legacy: German Studies and the Holocaust, edited together with Ern McGlothlin. Her current book project, The Subject of Democracy, explores the the relationship between film and democratization in West German culture of the 1950s. In spring 2018, she will co-host a related symposium together with colleague Caroline Kita on the subject of "The Arts of Democratization: Styling Political Sensibilities in Postwar West German Culture."

Kapczynski’s broader research and teaching interests include nineteenth through twenty-first century literature, film studies, gender theory, and political theory (particularly theories of political subjectivity and democratization). She has taught courses on German Literature of the Modern Era, German Modernism, the post-1945 “Zero Hour,” History of German Cinema, War Film, Holocaust Film, and Contemporary German Cinema.

recent courses

Literary Seminar: Contentious Cinema - German Film Culture After Unification (German 528)

Ever since 2000, when Eric Rentschler defined the previous decade of German film as a "cinema of consensus," scholars have wrestled with whether post-unification film culture is best characterized by conformity, experimentation, or some mixture of both. Taking up this question, this course offers an overview of contemporary German cinema, playing close attention to its key movements and moments. It explores how contemporary German film has contributed to the negotiation of national identity and the place of film as an art form, and how it has addressed issues such as gender, sexual, racial/ethnic and political identities, the country's relationship to its histories of censorship, violence and dictatorship, and its conflicting visions for the future. Possible films include: The Architects; Berlin is in Germany; Barbara; Rosenstraße; Das Wunder von Bern; 2 oder drei Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß; Wir sind jung, wir sind stark; Oh Boy; Der Baader Meinhof Komplex. Alongside the films, we will read a range of secondary and theoretical works, reviews, and literary or essayistic works on related themes. The language of discussion will be English, with readings in English and German. All films in German, with subtitles where available.

    Advanced German: Core Course IV (German 301D)

    Discussion of literary and non-literary texts combined with an intensive grammar review. Systematic introduction to the expressive functions of German, with an emphasis on spoken and written communication. In addition to regular class meetings, students should sign up for a twice-weekly subsection.

      Screening the Holocaust (Film 475)

      This course surveys the history of Holocaust representation on film, examining a wide range of documentary and fictional works from 1945 to the present day. Discussions will consider a number of key questions, including: What challenges does the Holocaust pose to cinematic representation, and how have filmmakers grappled with them? How have directors worked within and against notions of the Holocaust as unrepresentable, and how have they confronted the challenge of its association with a limited set of highly iconic images? What are the more general ethical and political dimensions of representing the Holocaust onscreen -- its victims as well as its perpetrators, the systematic genocidal violence that characterized it, and the sheer absence of so many dead? We will also probe the changing significance of cinematic representation of the Holocaust, exploring the medium's increasingly memorial function for audiences ever further removed from the historical moment of its occurrence. Screenings may include The Last Stage; Distant Journey; Night and Fog; Judgment at Nuremberg; Shoah; Europa, Europa; Schindler's List; Train of Life; The Specialist; Photographer; A Film Unfinished. Critical readings by figures such as Giorgio Agamben, Jean Amery, Shoshana Felman, Geoffrey Hartman, Marianne Hirsch, Sidra Israhi, Dominick LaCapra, Alison Landsberg, Berel Lang, Michael Rothberg, and James Young.

        Selected Publications

        Persistent Legacy: The Holocaust and German Studies. Ed. Erin McGlothlin and Jennifer M. Kapczynski. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2017.

        A New History of German Cinema. Ed. Jennifer M. Kapczynski and Michael Richardson. Screen Cultures: German Film and the Visual. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012.

        The German Patient: Crisis and Recovery in Postwar Culture (University of Michigan Press, series on "Social History, Popular Culture, and Politics in Germany," 2008)

        “The Singular Jew: Representing National Socialism’s Victims in Recent Historical Cinema,” in: Holocaust Cinema in the 21stCentury: Images, Memory and the Ethics of Representation. Ed. Gerd Bayer and Oleksandr Kobrynskyy. New York: Wallflower. 2015. 117-40.