Prof Jennifer Kapczynski

Jennifer Kapczynski

Honorary 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

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1104
  • One Brookings Dr.
  • St. Louis, MO 63130
image of book cover

Professor Kapczynski’s research focuses principally on twentieth and twenty-first century literature and film.

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 Erin 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.

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.

Full publications list

Persistent Legacy: The Holocaust and German Studies

Persistent Legacy: The Holocaust and German Studies

In studies of Holocaust representation and memory, scholars of literature and culture traditionally have focused on particular national contexts. At the same time, recent work has brought the Holocaust into the arena of the transnational, leading to a crossroads between localized and global understandings of Holocaust memory. Further complicating the issue are generational shifts that occur with the passage of time, and which render memory and representations of the Holocaust ever more mediated, commodified, and departicularized. Nowhere is the inquiry into Holocaust memory more fraught or potentially more productive than in German Studies, where scholars have struggled to address German guilt and responsibility while doing justice to the global impact of the Holocaust, and are increasingly facing the challenge of engaging with the broader, interdisciplinary, transnational field.

Persistent Legacy connects the present, critical scholarly moment with this long disciplinary tradition, probing the relationship between German Studies and Holocaust Studies today. Fifteen prominent scholars explore how German Studies engages with Holocaust memory and representation, pursuing critical questions concerning the borders between the two fields and how they are impacted by emerging scholarly methods, new areas of inquiry, and the changing place of Holocaust memory in contemporary Germany.

The German Patient: Crisis and Recovery in Postwar Culture

The German Patient: Crisis and Recovery in Postwar Culture

The German Patient takes an original look at fascist constructions of health and illness, arguing that the idea of a healthy "national body" –propagated by the Nazis as justification for the brutal elimination of various unwanted populations – continued to shape post-1945 discussions about the state of national culture. Through an examination of literature, film, and popular media of the era, Jennifer M. Kapczynski demonstrates the ways in which postwar German thinkers inverted the illness metaphor, portraying fascism as a national malady and the nation as a body struggling to recover. Yet, in working to heal the German wounds of war and restore national vigor through the excising of "sick" elements, artists and writers often betrayed a troubling affinity for the very biopolitical rhetoric they were struggling against. Through its exploration of the discourse of collective illness, The German Patient tells a larger story about ideological continuities in pre- and post-1945 German culture.