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Jan Uelzmann

Blurred image used as background for stylistic purposes.
Associate Professor of German

I teach courses on all aspects of German studies, with a particular emphasis on 20th century culture, literature, and media.

In my research, I combine approaches from cultural history, cultural studies, film studies, and literary studies to explore questions related to the Adenauer period (West German nation building, Cold War politics, propaganda, gender relations, Americanization and anti-Americanism, the provisional capital Bonn). I also work on Weimar modernism, film, and on Foreign Language curriculum development. I often implement Mobile Learning technologies in the classroom.

My book Staging West German Democracy: Governmental PR Films and the Democratic Imaginary, 1953-1963 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019) examines how political “founding discourses” of the nascent FRG were reflected, reinforced, and actively manufactured by the Federal government through PR films produced in conjunction with the West German newsreel system Deutsche Wochenschau.

Research Interests:

20th Century Literature and Culture

My research interests are primarily focused on two areas of the 20th century: the Literature, Film, and Culture of the Federal Republic of Germany (especially the immediate postwar period and the 1950s), and the Weimar Republic. A key approach in my research is the belief that literary and filmic texts also function as cultural archives intrinsically connected to the discourses in the contemporary culture. This insight is reflected in both my research and my teaching.

Book: “Staging West German Democracy” Governmental PR Films and the Democratic Imaginary, 1953-1963 

My book examines how political “founding discourses” of the nascent Federal Republic were reflected, reinforced, and actively manufactured by the West German, state-owned newsreel system, the Deutsche Wochenschau (DW). This study reconstructs the DW’s integral role in providing pro-government propaganda in a democratic media system through documentary films that the DW produced for the federal government. Dubbed Kanzlerfilme (chancellor-films), these films report on Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s political achievements, the provisional capital Bonn, or on foreign policy events, such as Adenauer’s state visits to the US, France or the Soviet Union, and on visits to the FRG by US Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. The films unabashedly celebrate Adenauer and his political achievements for the FRG. By looking at the institutional history of the DW and its close relationship to the Government Press Office (Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung), I trace the Adenauer administration’s project of maintaining a “government channel” in an increasingly diverse, de-centralized and democratic West German media landscape. In my analysis of the films, I argue that apart from providing election propaganda for Adenauer’s CDU party, these films provided an important stabilizing factor for the FRG’s project of explaining and promoting democracy to its citizens, and of defining its public image and its new capital Bonn against the Nazi past and the GDR. Combining approaches from cultural history, film studies, history, and sociology, this project will help close an evident research gap on West German newsreels and add in important ways to our understanding of the media’s role, particularly the role of propaganda, in the West German nation building process.

Cultural History of the Federal Republic

In re-reading the literary output of the 1950s for its reference to the Alltagsgeschichte of the Federal Republic, I became particularly interested in the connection between the economic restoration of the Adenauer period and the concomitant normalization of gender relations, which had been in upheaval during the last years of the war and during the first immediate war years. This research has led to an article on Arno Schmidt’s novel Das steinerne Herz, which satirically exposes these connections (“Consumption and Consummation: Domestic Tales of the Economic Miracle in Arno Schmidt’s Das steinerne Herz.” The German Quarterly 86.2 (2013): 180-197.) I also authored an article which deals with the way that the Neue Deutsche Wochenschau special feature “Begegnung im Kreml” (1956), a 35 minute documentary film made by the NDW for the Federal Press and Information Office, provided the Adenauer government with pro-government PR in an otherwise democratic media landscape. I argue that the symbolic language of the film, which reports on Adenauer’s 1955 state visit to Moscow and the subsequent release of the last 10,000 remaining German POWs, is designed to perform an important healing work on the West German collective memory of WWII. (“Symbolic Homecoming of the „Hero-Father“: Realignment of National Memory in the Neue Deutsche Wochenschau Special Feature on Konrad Adenauer’s 1955 State Visit to Moscow.” Colloquia Germanica 45.1 (2012/2015): 41-68.) My most recent article “Bonn, World City: Explaining the FRG’s Provisional Capital through Government Commissioned Documentaries during the Adenauer Years” (Monatshefte 108.2 (2016): 202-232) deals with the way the Federal government used specially ordered PR films by the Deutsche Wochenschau to promote the provisional capital Bonn as a city at once intrinsically connected to the world as a center of Western policy making, while at the same time remaining a decidedly provisional capital.

Literature of the 1950s

My article “Bonn, Divided City: City Space as Political Critique in Wolfgang Koeppen’s Das Treibhaus and Günther Weisenborn’s Auf Sand gebaut” (Seminar 50.4 (2014): 436-460) examines two “Bonn novels” of the 1950s, one very famous and the other virtually unknown today. I argue that both texts use Bonn’s alleged characteristic as a city divided between locals and the newly arrived government officials as a literary topography that symbolizes a critique of the West German political process. I am also working on an article that explores the striking shift in narrative stance from Wolfgang Koeppen’s largely unpolitical prewar to his highly political postwar work.

Literature of the Weimar Republic

I am particularly interested in examining the prevalent mode of social discourse in the Weimar Republic on terms of cynical behavior. My current research in this area establishes Berlin during the Weimar Republic, as represented in “city novels,” as topography of cynicism. The modern metropolis becomes an urban landscape that reflects on terms of its topography the estranging impact of modernity on big city dwellers, as represented in typical, “cynical locations,” such as the dancehall, the bordello, the Mietskasernen apartment, or the cabaret. (“Berlin is a Cabaret of the Nameless: The Cynical City in Erich Kästner’s Fabian.” Reinhard Zachau (ed). Topography and Literature: Berlin and Modernism. Goettingen: v&r unipress, 2009. 153-166.)

Applied Linguistics

I am exploring pedagogically innovative ways of using mobile learning apps (AppArchitect, ARIS) in the foreign language classroom and during study abroad. Students in my classes collaboratively create their own mobile learning apps to showcase class projects through text, sound, images, and film. Another area I am interested in is curriculum development. This research led to a co-authored article with my colleague Per Urlaub (“From Orality to Literacy: A Curricular Model for Intensive Second-Year Collegiate Language Instruction.” SCOLT Dimension 2013. 22-33)

  • Ph.D. Germanic Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011
  • M.A. German Literature, Texas Tech University, 2006
  • Erstes Staatsexamen Lehramt an Gymnasien (English, German), Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, Germany, 2004



Staging West German Democracy: Governmental PR Films and the Democratic Imaginary, 1953-1963, Bloomsbury, 2019

Journal Articles

"Backlash Against Bonn: The Building Freeze in the Bonn Federal District and the 'Berlin Initiatives" of 1956", German Studies Review (46.1 35-56), 2023

“Building Domestic Support for West Germany's Integration into NATO, 1953-1955", Journal of Cold War Studies, 2020

"Symbolic Homecoming of the 'Hero-Father': Realignment of National Memory in the Neue Deutsche Wochenschau Special Feature on Konrad Adenauer's 1955 State Visit to Moscow", German Colloquia, 2015

"Bonn, Divided City: City Scape as Political Critique in Wolfgang Koeppen's Das Treibhaus and Günther Weisenborn's Auf Sand gebaut", Seminar: A Journal of German Studies, 2014

"Consumption and Consummation: Domestic Tales of the Economic Miracle in Arno Schmidt's Das steinerne Herz", The German Quarterly, 2013

"From Orality to Literacy: A Curricular Model for Intensive Second-Year Collegiate Language Instruction", SCOLT, 2013

  • Provost Fellow for Faculty Development, Georgia Tech, 2022
  • Texas Foreign Language Teaching Excellence Award, College of Liberal Arts, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011
  • University Continuing Fellowship, Office of Graduate Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 2009-2010
Articles Featuring Jan Uelzmann
Monday, May 8, 2023 - 3:23pm

The Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies will begin offering a new study abroad program in Berlin starting July of 2024.

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 10:12am

We are excited to announce that Dr. Jan Uelzmann will be joining UGA's Germanic & Slavic Studies department faculty as Associate Professor of German in Fall 2023. Dr. Uelzmann previously taught at Georgia Tech, where he was Associate Professor…

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