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German & Scandinavian Studies, Deparment of Languages and Literatures

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Benita Blessing

Benita Blessing

Faculty Research Fellow, DEFA Film Library (2010-2011)
Research Associate, Five College Women's Studies Research Center

Contact Information

Location: Herter Hall 502
Phone: (413) 545-6681
Email: blessing[at]german.umass.edu

Dr. Blessing is currently finishing her second book manuscript, 'Princes and Princesses under Socialism: East German Children's Films, 1946-1990.' Based on the over 300 children's and young people's films produced by the East German state-owned film company DEFA, the study looks through and beyond the cinematic lens of DEFA to demonstrate that a theoretical underpinning of badly-played game theory on the part of the state kept it limited to a few choices in decision-making, while individual action occurred in a broader range of choices and pay-offs. Conceptualizing film as more than only a representation of reality, 'Princes and Princesses' demonstrates that the boundaries of documentary and entertainment films are at best blurry, particularly when it comes to interpreting the meaning of happily ever after for "princesses," whether real or imagined, on the big screen.

Her research interests focus on the nexus of social policy and cultural practices, with particular emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches to understanding how societies construct and disseminate shared knowledge. Key areas of analysis include the history of education, film studies, gender and sexuality, memory and consciousness, children's studies, folk tales, and the history of science. Dr. Blessing's research methodologies center on qualitative and quantitative analysis of written and visual texts, oral history, game theory, behavior of organizations, cultural and linguistic studies, feminist theory, and taxonomies and technologies of knowledge.

Her first book, The Antifascist Classroom: Denazification in Soviet-occupied Germany, 1945-1949 appeared with Palgrave in 2006 (paperback 2010). This study examined the role of education in post-World War II eastern Germany's attempts to develop a unique antifascist consciousness that was secular, socialist-humanist, and gender-neutral.

Future projects include a history of anti-Darwinist thought in the post-World War II period. "Anti-Darwinian Experiments and the Subterranean Laboratory in Moulis, France, 1945-1989" aims to rethink the history of scientific competition during the Cold War as extending beyond a mere East (communist) vs. West (capitalist) dichotomy, using the case study of the creation and development of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Moulis subterranean research laboratory. Also in progress is a history of children's sleep rituals in nineteenth-century Europe, an area of research that extends into Blessing's work on the meaning of vampires in myths and text from the medieval period to the present as a public forum for the discussion of science and ethics throughout history.

Dr. Blessing graduated from Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, with a B.A. in German and French. She also studied at Institut d'Etudes Européennes, Paris, France. She was awarded her M.A. in International Policy Studies and German from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California. Blessing received a joint Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in history and educational policy studies.

Dr. Blessing is the recipient of a number of research fellowships and teaching and mentorship awards. Most recently she has been a Fulbright senior research scholar to Berlin; a Visiting Research Fellow at CNRS-Moulis, and a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation fellow. She is a member of the History of Education Society, American Historical Association, German Studies Association, and American Educational Research Association. She serves as H-German book and media review editor. She is fluent in Italian, German and French, and has reading knowledge of several other languages.