Jonathan Hess
Professor of German, Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professor of Jewish History and Culture, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies; Department Chair


Before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill in 1993, Jonathan Hess earned a B.A. from Yale University (1987), received an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University (1989), and then completed his graduate training at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1993.

Intellectual Biography & Awards

Jonathan Hess works in German and German-Jewish literary, cultural, and intellectual history, with particular interests in theatre and popular culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His monographs, Germans, Jews, and the Claims of Modernity (Yale University Press, 2002) and Middlebrow Literature and the Making of German-Jewish Identity (Stanford University Press, 2010) were selected by Choice magazine as outstanding academic titles, and Germans, Jews and the Claims of Modernity won honorable mention in the Modern Languages Association’s Scaglione Prize in Germanic Languages and Literatures for books published in 2002 and 2003.

Recent Publications

DeborahDeborah and Her Sisters: How One Nineteenth-Century Melodrama and a Host of Celebrated Actresses Put Judaism on the World Stage. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

“The Mortara Case and the Literary Imagination: Jewish Melodrama and the Pleasures of Victimhood,”Jewish Quarterly Review (forthcoming).

“Off to America and Back Again, Or, Judah Touro and Other Products of the German-Jewish Imagination,”Jewish Social Studies 19 (2013): 1-23.

19thCentJewishLitNineteenth-Century Jewish Literature: A Reader, ed. Jonathan M. Hess, Maurice Samuels and Nadia Valman (Stanford University Press, 2013)
PursuitOfReadingLiterary Studies and the Pursuits of Reading, ed. Eric Downing, Jonathan M. Hess, and Richard V. Benson (Camden House, 2012)
GermanJewishIdentityMiddlebrow Literature and the Making of German-Jewish Identity (Stanford University Press, 2010).


Frequently Taught Courses

  • GERM 56. First-Year Seminar. Germans, Jews, and the History of Antisemitism
  • GSLL 270. German Culture and the “Jewish Question”
  • GERM 301. Conversation and Composition
  • GERM 303. Introduction to German Literature
  • GERM 380. Austrian Literature and Culture

Dr. Hess’s Upcoming Course Offerings

Undergraduate and Graduate Advising and Mentoring

Honors Theses Directed

  • Tatjana Zimbelius-Klem (2016)
  • Michael Gottstein (2013)
  • Lee Czerw (2012)

Ph.D. Dissertations directed

  • Christine Kenison, Crossing Borders: Poland in the Nineteenth-Century German Cultural Imaginary (2017)
  • Sandra Niethardt, Know Thyself by Reading! Self-Knowledge and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (2016)
  • Erik J. Grell, Liberal Affect and Literary Culture: The Politics of Feeling in Nineteenth-Century German Fiction (2015)
  • Tayler Kent, Theater of Infection: Illness and Contagion in German Drama Around 1800 (2015)
  • Elizabeth Schreiber-Byers, Power Play: Beyond the Erotics of Masochism in Nineteenth-Century German Literature and Philosophy (2013)
  • Susanne Gomoluch, Redeeming the Imagination: The Case Study, Literature and Medical Discourse around 1800 (2012)
  • Chjunjie Zhang, Views from the Other Side: Colonial Culture and Anti-Colonial Sentiment in Germany Around 1800 (2010)
  • Richard Benson, Modernity, Marginality and Redemption: German and Jewish Identity at the Fin-de-Siècle (2009)
  • Rick Apgar, Taming Travel and the Disciplining of Reason: Enlightenment and Pedagogy in the Work of Joachim Heinrich Campe (2008)
  • Derrick R. Miller, Graphic Heaving and Swelling: Aesthetics, the Body and Erotic Literature in the Age of Lessing (2007)

Additional Information

I am currently the co-editor, with Laura Lieber (Duke), of AJS Perspectives, the print and online magazine for the Association for Jewish Studies.
For more about Dr. Hess, see his Curriculum Vitae.