Michael Jennings focuses his teaching and research on European culture in the 20th century. In addition to literature, he teaches on topics in cultural theory and the visual arts, with special emphasis on photography. He approaches cultural material from a perspective informed by historicist interpretive strategies and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School.
Jennings is an associated faculty member of the Department of Art and Archaeology and the School of Architecture and a faculty associate of the Center for the Study of Religion. He sits on the executive committee of the Program in European Cultural Studies and the Ph.D. Program in Humanistic Studies.
He is the author of two books on Walter Benjamin: Dialectical Images: Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Literary Criticism (Cornell University Press, 1987), and, with Howard Eiland, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life (Harvard University Press, 2014). He also serves as the general editor of the standard English-language edition of Benjamin’s works, Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings (Harvard University Press, four volumes, 1996–2003), and the editor of a series of collections of Benjamin’s essays intended for classroom use, including The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire (2007); with Brigid Doherty and Thomas Levin, The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility and other Writings on Media (2008); and, with Miriam Bratu Hansen, One Way Street (forthcoming in 2014).
His published work includes articles on the theory of art history (Alois Riegl, Wihelm Worringer), modernism in its relationship to capitalist modernity (Robert Musil, Franz Kafka, Uwe Johnson), Weimar culture (Berlin Dada, Alfred Döblin, Thomas Mann, forms of literary criticism), 18th-century aesthetics (Sturm und Drang, J. M. R. Lenz, Friedrich Hölderlin), modern media (print culture and modernism), and German photography (László Moholy-Nagy, August Sander, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Michael Schmidt). He is the coeditor, with Detlef Mertins, of a facsimile edition of the avant-garde journal G: Journal of Elemental Form-Creation (Getty Research Institute, 2010); with Uwe Steiner, of a volume of essays on Uwe Johnson’s Jahrestage (forthcoming from Wilhelm Fink Verlag); with Tobias Wilke, of a special issue of Grey Room on Walter Benjamin and the Theory of Media; and, with Stanley Corngold, of a special issue of Monatshefte on Kafka’s Late Style.
He is currently at work on two book projects: studies of the German photo-essay in the 20th century and of calendrical forms in the German culture of the 1970s.
Jennings serves as director of the Alexander Kluge Research Collection at Princeton and the co-director, with Ben Morgan and Anthony Phelan, of the Oxford-Princeton Research Collaboration in German. He sits on the executive committee of the International Walter Benjamin Society and the Uwe Johnson Association, and on the editorial board of the journals Transit: A Journal of Travel, Migration, and Multiculturalism in the German-Speaking World; LINKS: Rivista di letteratura e cultura tedesca; and Cultura: International Journal of Philosophy and Culture.