Kurt Beals

Kurt Beals

Assistant Professor of German
Director of Undergraduate Studies in German
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
research interests:
  • 20th and 21st-Century German Literature and Culture
  • Translation Theory and Practice
  • Experimentalism and Avant-Gardes
  • Digital Humanities
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  • Washington University
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Professor Beals' research focuses on experimental movements in 20th-century and contemporary German literature, including Dada, Concrete poetry, and digital poetry.

Beals focuses on the ways that these movements incorporate, respond to, and reflect on contemporaneous developments in media technologies and information theory. His book Wireless Dada: Telegraphic Poetics in the Avant-Garde was published in 2019 by Northwestern University Press. He has published articles on authors including George Grosz, Paul Celan, Regina Ullmann, and Max Bense, in journals including New German Critique, The German Quarterly, and Dada/Surrealism. He is also co-editor of the volume Hans Richters Rhythmus 21: Schlüsselfilm der Moderne. In addition, Beals has translated a wide range of works from German into English, including a volume of poetry by the contemporary German poet Anja Utler, a collection of stories by the Swiss author Regina Ullmann, the volume Is that Kafka? 99 Finds by Reiner Stach, and a forthcoming volume of speeches and essays by Jenny Erpenbeck.

Beals earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Oberlin College, with a minor in German. He earned his master's degree and doctorate in German from the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation research was supported by grants from the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) and the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies). Beals teaches general courses on German language and culture, as well as courses focused more specifically on experimental literature, media theory, and contemporary poetry.

Fall 2019 Courses

German Thought and the Modern Era (German 341)

In this introduction to the intellectual history of the German-speaking world from roughly 1750 to the present, we will read English translations of works by some of the most influential figures in the German tradition, including Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Adorno, Heidegger, Arendt, Habermas, and others. Our discussions will focus on topics such as secularization, what it means to be modern, the possibility of progress, the role of art and culture in social life, the critique of mass society, and the interpretation of the Nazi past. We will consider the arguments of these thinkers both on their own terms and against the backdrop of the historical contexts in which they were written. Open to first-year students, non-majors and majors. Admission to 400-level courses (except 402, 403D, 404, and 408D) is contingent on completion of this course, 340C/340D, or 342/342D. The main course is conducted in English, so this will only qualify for major or minor credit when taken in conjunction with one-hour discussion section in German (L21 341D).

    Seminar in Literature of the 20th Century: Lyrik seit 2000 (German 527)

    Discussions of contemporary German literature tend to focus heavily on fiction, with scant attention paid to poetry. However, despite its perennially marginalized status, German-language poetry has been a site of many innovations and debates in recent years, and certainly rewards closer study. This course will examine German-language poetry from the past 20 years, highlighting topics such as literary experimentation, ecopoetics, multimedia and multilingual poetry, and the many factors that shape the contemporary poetry scene, including publishers, journals, reading series, literary prizes, translations and collaborations, and writing collectives. Authors are likely to include: Hannes Bajohr, Ann Cotten, Monika Rinck, Ulf Stolterfoht, Anja Utler, Jan Wagner, and Uljana Wolf, among others.

      Selected Publications

      “Primitivismus: The Dada Rhythms of Rhythmus 21,” in Hans Richters Rhythmus 21: Schlüsselfilm der Moderne (Königshausen & Neumann, 2012)

      “The Großstadt and the Landstraße: Modernity on the Periphery in the Works of Regina Ullmann,” in Steven R. Huff and Dorothea Kaufmann, eds., “Es ist seit Rahel uns erlaubt, Gedanken zu haben”: Essays in Honor of Heidi Thomann Tewarson (Königshausen & Neumann, 2012)