Caroline Kita

Caroline Kita

​Assistant Professor of German
PhD, Duke University
research interests:
  • 19th and 20th Century German and Austrian Literature and Culture
  • German-Jewish Studies
  • Aesthetic Philosophy and Religion
  • Music and Narrative
  • The Radio Play (Hörspiel) in German Culture

contact info:

office hours:

  • Tuesday 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1104
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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​Professor Kita's scholarship focuses on German and Austrian culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Professor Kita is particularly interested in aesthetic philosophy, music and literature, drama and sound studies. Her research has examined religious and cultural identity in the works of Jewish writers and composers in Austria from the turn of the twentieth century to the Second World War, and she has published on the works of Richard Beer-Hofmann, Siegfried Lipiner, Gustav Mahler, and Arnold Schoenberg.

Her monograph, Jewish Difference and the Arts in Vienna: Composing Compassion in Music and Biblical Drama examines the role of music and theater in shaping discourses of inclusion and otherness in fin-de-siècle Vienna. Her current book project, Border Territories: The Emancipatory Soundscapes of Postwar German Radio, focuses on the narrative radio drama, or Hörspiel, and traces how the ability of this acoustic-narrative genre to realize dynamic relationships between the temporal and spatial, the real and imaginary, the past and the present, allowed it to function as a unique mode of cultural critique and political commentary. In spring 2018, she will co-host a symposium together with colleague Jennifer Kapczynski on the subject of “The Arts of Democratization: Styling Political Sensibilities in Postwar West German Culture.”

Professor Kita teaches language courses on all levels, as well as seminars on various aspects of German and European culture. Her course offerings include "Rebellion, Regression, Rebirth: German Literature from the Vormärz to the Fin-de-Siècle," "Vienna 1900," "What Dreams May Come: Explorations of the Psyche in Viennese Modernism," and "Reading Radio: The Sounds of German History and Culture."

She has studied at the University of Vienna, the University of Potsdam, and the University of Duisburg-Essen. Kita was the recipient of a Fulbright Grant to Austria in 2004-05, and has received funding for advanced research from the Austrian Exchange Service (OeAD), who awarded her an Ernst Mach Grant in 2012 and a Franz Werfel Fellowship in 2015 and 2017. She was a faculty fellow at the Center for the Humanities here at Washington University in spring 2018.

Fall 2018 Courses

German Literature and the Modern Era (German 340C)

Introduction in English to German writers from 1750 to the present. Discussion focuses on questions like the role of outsiders in society, the human psyche, technology, war, gender, the individual and mass culture, modern and postmodern sensibilities as they are posed in predominantly literary texts and in relation to the changing political and cultural faces of Germany over the past 250 years. Readings include works in translation by some of the most influential figures of the German tradition, such as Goethe, Nietzsche, Freud, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Brecht, and Christa Wolf. Open to first-year students, non-majors and majors.

    German Lit & Culture, 1914-present: Reading Radio - The Sounds of German History & Culture (German 4103)

    In this course, we examine the interaction of media and culture in German-speaking lands through a focus on radio. In addition to reading about the theory and history of radio, students will explore the development of this medium through the genre of Hörspiel, or radio drama, a unique form of acoustic literature that continues to be broadcast on major German radio stations today. What new perspectives can sound documents offer on the political, social and economic upheavals of the past century? How has radio contributed to forging a sense of belonging and nationhood? What role did and does it continue to play in voicing dissent, shaping ideas of democracy, and working through the past? Readings include texts by Bertolt Brecht, Rudolf Arnheim, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, and radio plays by Ingeborg Bachmann, Heinrich Böll, Ernst Jandl and Elfriede Jelinek. Readings, discussion and writing assignments in German.

      Selected Publications

      Jewish Difference and the Arts in Vienna: Composing Compassion in Music and Biblical Drama. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Forthcoming, 2019.

      "Richard Beer-Hofmann’s Die Historie von König David: Jewish Biblical Drama and the Limits of Epic Theater." The German Quarterly. 89.2 (2016). 133-149.

      "Myth, Metaphysics and Cosmic Drama: The Legacy of Faust in Lipiner's Hippolytos and Mahler's Eighth Symphony.Monatshefte. 105.4 (Winter 2013).

      Jewish Difference and the Arts in Vienna

      Jewish Difference and the Arts in Vienna

      During the mid-nineteenth century, the works of Arthur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner sparked an impulse toward German cultural renewal and social change that drew on religious myth, metaphysics, and spiritualism. The only problem was that their works were deeply antisemitic and entangled with claims that Jews were incapable of creating compassionate art. By looking at the works of Jewish composers and writers who contributed to a lively and robust biblical theatre in fin-de-siècle Vienna, Caroline A. Kita, shows how they reimagined myths of the Old Testament to offer new aesthetic and ethical views of compassion. These Jewish artists, including Gustav Mahler, Siegfried Lipiner, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Stefan Zweig, and Arnold Schoenberg, reimagined biblical stories through the lens of the modern Jewish subject to plead for justice and compassion toward the Jewish community. By tracing responses to antisemitic discourses of compassion, Kita reflects on the explicitly and increasingly troubled political and social dynamics at the end of the Habsburg Empire.