kurt beals

Kurt Beals

Assistant Professor of German
Director of Undergraduate Studies
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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contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1104
  • One Brookings Drive
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Professor Beals' research focuses on experimental movements in 20th-century and contemporary German poetry, including Dada, Concrete poetry, and digital poetry or Netzliteratur.

Beals focuses on the ways that these movements incorporate, respond to, and reflect on contemporaneous developments in media technologies and information theory. He has written articles on authors including George Grosz, Paul Celan, and Regina Ullmann, and on the filmmaker Hans Richter. 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, and a collection of stories by the Swiss author Regina Ullmann, which is forthcoming.


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.

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)

      Is That Kafka?

      Is That Kafka?

      In the course of compiling his highly acclaimed three-volume biography of Kafka, while foraying to libraries and archives from Prague to Israel, Reiner Stach made one astounding discovery after another: unexpected photographs, inconsistencies in handwritten texts, excerpts from letters, and testimonies from Kafka's contemporaries that shed surprising light on his personality and his writing.

      Is that Kafka? presents the crystal granules of the real Kafka: he couldn't lie, but he tried to cheat on his high-school exams; bitten by the fitness fad, he avidly followed the regime of a Danish exercise guru; he drew beautifully; he loved beer; he read biographies voraciously; he made the most beautiful presents, especially for children; odd things made him cry or made him furious; he adored slapstick. Every discovery by Stach turns on its head the stereotypical version of the tortured neurotic—and as each one chips away at the monolithic dark Kafka, the keynote, of all things, becomes laughter.

      For Is that Kafka? Stach has assembled 99 of his most exciting discoveries, culling the choicest, most entertaining bits, and adding his knowledgeable commentaries. Illustrated with dozens of previously unknown images, this volume is a singular literary pleasure.