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Jaeger, Stephan

Professor, German and Slavic Studies


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Keyword Discipline

German Studies


German Language/Literature




War Studies


Memory Studies


Cultural Memory and Identity


Military History


Language and/or Literature, Comparative Literature


European Languages/Literature


Holocaust Studies


Research Description

Research Interests: Museum narratives and experience; Relations between literature and historiography/history; poetics and narratology of historical writing; representations of war and Holocaust; contemporary historical narrative in museums, historiography, literature, and film; human rights research; theory and history of poetry, theories of subjectivity. German and British Romanticism;, European Modernism; literary and cultural theory (particularly narratology, theory of aesthetic response, hermeneutics, poststructuralism, discourse theory, performance theory, cultural memory, cognitive theory).

Current Research Projects: My current research concentrates on further development of the concept of “experientiality” for the analysis of museums, as developed in my 2020 monograph "The Second World War in the Twenty-First-Century Museum: From Memory, Narrative, and Experience to Experientiality." All of these projects will lead to book articles and journal chapters.

(1)I analyze the relationship between war/violence, fiction and children installations in historical museums, focusing on the immersion techniques in such museums to create different historical individual and collective perspectives for museum visitors.

(2) Following my brief chapter “Art in Second World War Museums” in The Second World War in the Twenty-First-Century Museum , I focus more systematically on the potential of art in war and history museums and its potential for creating forms of historical immersion and self-reflexivity.

(3) A larger long-term study pursues a qualitative visitor analysis of war simulations in contemporary museum exhibitions in order to understand the frames to which the majority of visitors of an institution react. This blending of empirical visitor studies and experientiality is aimed to provide insight into how active a visitor can be, if and when a visitor feels lost in too many choices, and how much guidance, narrative, and structure in an exhibition is needed. It also assesses the impact of cultural memory on the experience and interpretation of exhibits.

(4)After demonstrating the relevance of the concept of ‘experientiality’ for the representation of the Second World War including a specialized chapter on “The Holocaust and Perpetration in War Museums,” I will further analyze whether experientiality can be useful concept to understand the representational potential of exhibitions in Holocaust (Memorial) Museums.

(5) I will expand my studies on experiential, cultural memory and the Second World War by analyzing the narrative, representational, and aesthetic means of newest Second World War Exhibitions.

Most Recently Completed Research:

1) Stephan Jaeger. The Second World War in the Twenty-First-Century Museum: From Memory, Narrative, and Experience to Experientiality. Media and Cultural Memory 26. Berlin / Boston: De Gruyter, 2020. 368 pp.

2) Romanhaftes Erzählen von Geschichte: Vergegenwärtigte Vergangenheiten im beginnenden 21. Jahrhundert (Novelistic Narration of History: Pasts Present in the Early 21st Century). Ed. Daniel Fulda and Stephan Jaeger in collaboration with Elena Agazzi. Studien und Texte zur Sozialgeschichte der Literatur 148. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2019. 519 pp.

3) Views of Violence: Representing the Second World War in German and European Museums and Memorials. Ed. Jörg Echternkamp and Stephan Jaeger. Spektrum: Publications from the German Studies Association 19, New York: Berghahn Books, 2019. 283 pages.

Teaching Description

Teaching Interests: undergraduate and graduate classes in German Literature, Culture, and Language (all levels); Methodology, Literary and Cultural Theory, German Enlightenment, Classicism, and Romanticism, Modernism, contemporary German literature (especially History in Literature), Representations of War and of the Holocaust, Museums and Cultural Memory. Love in German Culture. Stories of Espionage, Stories of Migration.

Public/Media (Non-Technical) Description

Expertise on German Literature, War and Violence in the Museum and in German and European memory culture, Historiography, and Culture since 1750 as well as Cultural and Literary Theory.

Current research interest in particular in historiographical representations of World War II and the Holocaust in the 21st century museum (war museums in Germany, Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Belgium, and Poland); national and transnational identity, air-war, Holocaust, memory and commemoration of war from a German and comparative perspective, relation of victims and perpetrators, human rights)

Besides, museums, my research includes different genres and media such as historical fiction, popular and academic historiography, documentaries, historical museums, historical monuments, and feature films.

Research questions include how to narrate war experiences; how to represent different individual and collective experiences in history.

Other areas of expertise include relations between literature and historiography/history; poetics and narratology of historical writing, as well as German Enlightenment and Romanticism (Historiography, Aesthetics, Poetry).

Languages (other than English)

German - Read, Write, Speak, Comprehend Aurally

International Activities

Between national and transnational memories: World War II in the twenty-first-century museum in Europe and North America

In recent years, the remembrance of World War II has been intensified internationally to mark the war's function in local, regional, national, and transnational memory cultures. Popular documentary representations such as museums have increasingly taken over the traditional role of historiographic research in shaping public perception of World War II. This trend towards popular historiography is a reaction to new digital technologies as well as reflecting the fact that there are fewer eyewitnesses of World War II alive. Historically, war museums tended to be the ultimate example of representing nationalistic memory, assigning master narratives of victory, victimhood, heroic suffering, or resistance to the countries in question. Since the ongoing world-wide historical museum boom started in the mid-1990's, a re-orientation from merely representing the past to presenting memory forms that create relevance for present and future has taken place, increasingly in terms of understanding war, atrocities, and violence on a comparative and international stage.

The project compares 21st-century World War II museums in Europe and North America in order to understand different representational patterns of the communication of historical knowledge and the shaping of collective memories of World War II today. This project concentrates on Europe and North America by analyzing permanent state-funded exhibitions in countries with very different stakes in remembering and commemorating World War II: Germany, Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Poland, and Belgium. Based on the in-person analysis of about 140 war and World War II museums in 15 countries, twelve museum exhibitions have been selected as core for the project's analysis. The comparative approach allows for a distinct comparison of various forms and functions of identity and memory construction, including representing master narratives, displaying historical knowledge, displaying a historical space wherein visitors can experience the past empathetically (including secondary historical effects), and understanding or questioning causality in history. Whereas the museums increasingly display more normative techniques of representing World War II, they also react to very specific political, ideological, and identity formation circumstances. Furthermore, the project reflects upon the impact of state-funded 'official' memory in terms of diversity in individual and local memories. The project employs various methods from literary studies (representational and aesthetic theory, narratology) and cultural studies (collective memory, identity theory, and transnational memory theory).

The project examines the range of representational possibilities of how museums can create experientiality not just in subjective or in single experiences; by creating secondary, poietic spaces. This is particularly true for museums, since any narrative component of representation happens in space and requires the visitor as an entity to complete the act of perception. These spaces do not simply reference or imitate the past, but simulate historical experience for the museum visitor, who then has a constructed experience that only emerges in the representation. It discusses the depiction of trauma, the relation of the Holocaust and World War II, experientiality, distantiation, narrative, perspective, collectivity, the balancing between documenting and experiencing the past, the relation of past and present, and futurity.

Funding Agencies Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Location Winnipeg
Countries Germany, Canada, U.S. Poland, Great Britain, Belgium
Regions Western Europe, North America, Eastern Europe
Dates 2014 - 2020

Exhibition Synagogues in Germany: A Virtual Reconstruction� Research Symposium �Cultural Genocide in Comparative Perspective: Indigenous Studies and the Holocaust

Together with Adam Muller (English, Film and Theatre, University of Manitoba).

(1) the exhibition "Synagogues in Germany: A Virtual Reconstruction," consisting of digital reconstructions of twenty-four Jewish religious sites destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust (Jan 27-March 4, 2017);

and (2) a research symposium entitled "Cultural Genocide in Comparative Perspective: Indigenous Studies and the Holocaust." (Feb. 3-5, 2017)

"Synagogues in Germany" is the result of twenty years of architectural research at Darmstadt Technical University working to reclaim some of Germany's lost Jewish heritage in the wake of the 1994 firebombing of a synagogue in Luebeck, the first racist attack on a Jewish house of worship in Germany since 1945. Researchers created elaborate 3D digital reconstructions of destroyed synagogues which exhibition visitors can explore from one of the computer workstations on which they are installed. Along with associated placards, photographs, text panels, and three documentary films, these reconstructions can demonstrate the nature of cultural loss by providing visualizations of destroyed architecture, recall the eradicated buildings' architectural variety and historical importance, and contribute to commemorative work ongoing in the wake of the Nazi genocide by providing a source for reflection on what the historical destruction of Jewish culture means today. The exhibition speaks to the causes and costs to a people of the annihilation of its culture. This annihilation was labeled "vandalism" by Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term "genocide" and oversaw its legal institutionalization via the UN's Genocide Convention. Along with "barbarism" or physical destruction, vandalism was for Lemkin one of the two main ways in which the genocide of a people could be accomplished. "Vandalism" has become a matter of national concern in the wake of the 2015 release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which identifies Canada's Indian Residential School system as responsible for cultural genocide.

We will explore the issue of cultural violence critically and in greater depth in our symposium which is being hosted by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. It will bring together leading and emerging figures in Holocaust and Indigenous Studies to discuss the effects of cultural destruction on the persistence of group life. Currently, Holocaust and Indigenous scholars have very little to do with one another intellectually. This estrangement has led Holocaust scholar Dorota Glowacka to argue for the "urgent need to 'decolonize' Holocaust Studies as a discipline, that is, to challenge the inherent presumptions and biases that stem from its Eurocentric conceptual frameworks." A richer reading of the Holocaust would also benefit Indigenous Studies scholars, who typically reference the Nazi genocide only in passing, with insufficient regard for the many ways in which cultural destruction shattered Jewish and other community life, leaving victims traumatized, isolated, and for the most part unable to marshal collective resistance to the forces bent on their extermination.

Both exhibition and symposium connect closely to Canada's 150th anniversary since the comparisons they invite, and the public discussion and scholarly debates they will inspire, are intended to contribute to making better sense of Canada's history and identity, and the role played by genocidal violence in shaping both. By drawing parallels with the causes and effects of racialized cultural violence in Nazi Germany, the exhibition and symposium together will shed new light on the specifics of Canadian settler colonialism, and in the process will assist Canadians in coming to terms with, and redressing, Canada's own legacies of genocide and cultural annihilation.

Partners Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre, Mennonite Heritage Gallery, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Funding Agencies Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany / German Foreign Office; SHRC (applied for), University of Manitoba
Location Winnipeg
Countries Germany, Canada, Poland
Regions Western Europe, North America, Eastern Europe
Dates 2016 - 2018

Representing the Second World War in Museums and Memorials

In progress: Views of Violence. Representing the Second World War in Museums and Memorials. Ed. Joerg Echternkamp and Stephan Jaeger. Preliminary accepted in Series Spektrum: Publications from the German Studies Association, New York: Berghahn Books.

Views of Violence analyzes the representational and commemoration strategies in 21st-century museums and memorials to understand the most recent views on the violent past of the Second World War in the German, Austrian and European context. It presents the first collection on the English-speaking market that targets the specific media/genres of museums and memorials in the wider context of European memory culture. Whereas the Anglo-American discussion strongly focuses on Holocaust representation, this volume highlights the complex relationship of the Second World War, the Holocaust, and other discourses, of suffering and commemoration. It analyzes how permanent and temporary museum exhibitions, cemeteries, memorials, and other remembrance discourses verbalize, visualize, and mediate the Second World War for today's European audiences between experience, commemoration, and historical knowledge. The volume focuses on German and Austrian representations, supplemented by the contemporary representations in the UK, France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Soviet Union (and Canada). Its comparative approach centering around the German and Austrian memory allows to avoid the difficulty of other collections that seem mostly assemble individual case-studies, and develop comparative answers to most recent representation and commemoration techniques in the German and European landscape of remembering the Second World War. The volume highlights the use and framing of different visualization and narrativization techniques used by museums and memorials such as photography, film, and multi-media installations, the relationships of victims and perpetrators, as well as the temporal and spatial layers of memory with their cognitive, ethic, and aesthetic implications.

This book project derives from the activities of the GSA Interdisciplinary Network War and Violence (co-coordinated by Joerg Echternkamp, Stephan Jaeger, and Susanne Vees-Gulani). It brings together researchers from academic institutions and from museums and assembles selected papers from the panel series "Museums, Memorials, and War" at the 39th Annual Conference of the German Studies Association in Arlington, VA. in October 2015, supplemented with several articles solicited by other experts in the field.

Partners Joerg Echternkamp (Potsdam/Halle a.d.S.)
Funding Agencies German Studies Association
Location Arlington, VA, Winnipeg, MA, Halle an der Saale (Germany)
Countries Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Poland, former Soviet Union, UK, Canada
Regions Western Europe, Eastern Europe
Dates 2015 - 2019

Curriculum Vitae

CV_JaegerStephan.pdf(PDF - 304.25 KB)Download

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