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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2020/21 Prof. Dr. Johannes von Moltke

Prof. Dr. Johannes von Moltke

© Heike Barndt
University of Michigan
Film and Media Studies
External Senior Fellow
September 2018 - July 2019


Johannes von Moltke (PhD, Duke University) is a Professor jointly appointed in German and Film/TV/Media at the University of Michigan. His research and teaching focus on film and German cultural history of the 20th and 21st centuries. Professor von Moltke studied in Germany, France, and the US, and previously taught at the University of Hildesheim in Germany. He is the author of The Curious Humanist: Siegfried Kracauer in America (2015), a Choice Outstanding Academic Title; and No Place Like Home: Locations of Heimat in German Cinema (2005), winner of the MLA Scaglione Prize for Best Book in German Studies. Combining his interests in German, Film, and Cultural Studies, he has published articles in New German Critique, October, Screen, Cultural Critique, Cinema Journal, Germanic Review and other journals, as well as in numerous edited volumes in the U.S. and Germany. Together with Gerd Gemünden Johannes is the series editor for Screen Cultures: German Film and the Visual at Camden House. 

Professor von Moltke currently serves as the Vice President of the German Studies Association, and he is a board member of the American Friends of Marbach. At Michigan, he has served as the organizer of the biannual German Film Institute.

Moltke's work on Kracauer has also led to the publication of essays by and about this key cultural critic, respectively: together with Gerd Gemünden (Dartmouth College), von Moltke assembled an interdisciplinary anthology of essays entitled Culture in the Anteroom: The Legacies of Siegfried Kracauer (University of Michigan Press, 2012); and together with Kristy Rawson, who received her PhD in Screen Arts & Cultures at Michigan, he compiled Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture (University of California Press, 2012). A further anthology, Siegfried Kracauers Grenzgänge: Zur Rettung des Realen, co-edited with Helmut Lethen and Sabine Biebl, is forthcoming from Campus Verlag.

Selected Publications

  • The Curious Humanist: Siegfried Kracauer in America (Berkeley: U of California Press, 2016).
  • Siegfried Kracauer's American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture [with Kristy Rawson]; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
  • Culture in the Anteroom: The Legacies of Siegfried Kracauer [with Gerd Gemünden], Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012.
  • No Place Like Home: Locations of Heimat in German Cinema (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005);
  • "Hollywood, Hitler, and Historiography: Film History as Cultural Critique," in Cultural Critique no. 91 (Fall 2015), 167-89.

FRIAS Research Project

Critical Theory in “Postcritical” Times

In this project, I pursue a series of linked investigations into the place of Critical Theory in the present. Each inquiry is prompted by a specific constellation in which the work of the Frankfurt School figures either historically or conceptually in relation to the current media, political, and academic landscape. One such constellation arises from the alt-right’s (ab)use of critical theory in its ostensible critique of „cultural Marxism.“ Taking seriously the mediated cultural formation of the alt-right, I first reconstruct the appropriation of critical theory as an internet meme before turning to the historical work of critical theory itself to analyze that meme’s fascist cultural logics. A second constellation derives from current populist and authoritarian trends in Europe and North America, which I read in light of critical theory’s historical analyses of propaganda. Here, the argument is that critical theory harbors tools to decode the political rhetoric of the present. A third constellation concerns the proposed shift, within the humanities, away from the project of critique – a shift that in my view misconstrues the history of that project. Engaging carefully with arguments about the limits of critique, I aim to show that critical theory provides a set of useful caveats against postcritical overreach in the age of “post-truth” and “alternative facts.” The film and media work of Alexander Kluge, finally, provides my fourth constellation, which centers on what Kluge calls the production of „Unterscheidungsvermögen,“ or the ability to make distinctions – a critical faculty par excellence and the condition of possibility for judgment.