kurt beals

Kurt Beals

Assistant Professor of 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

contact info:

office hours:

  • Monday and Wednesday, 1:00 to 2:00 pm
Get Directions

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1104
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

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.

Spring 2019 Courses

Topics in German Studies: Kafka and his Contemporaries (German 4105)

In this course we will read several major works by Franz Kafka, as well as works by other authors of his day such as Franz Werfel, Robert Musil, and Else Lasker-Schüler. The aim of the course will be to understand Kafka not as the sui generis, solipsistic author he is often thought to be, but rather as a writer deeply connected to his particular historical moment and literary milieu. We will also discuss the reception of Kafka's works both during his lifetime and after his death, considering a variety of critical approaches to his writings. All readings, discussions, and written work will be in German. Prerequisites: German 302D and 340C/D or 341/341D or equivalent, or permission of instructor.

    Literary Modernities in Europe and America: Text and Traditions (IPH 3050)

    The course examines the various facets of modernity in major works of European, Eurasian, and, sometimes, American literature from the early Seventeenth Century to the 1920s, starting with Don Quixote. We will explore, among other things, the eruption of the novel, the secularization of autobiography, the literary discovery of the city, the rise of literary and aesthetic criticism that takes literature and art seriously as political and social institutions. In addition to literary works, the course will engage with two or three important models of critical practice e.g. Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women, Marx's German Ideology, Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, T.S. Eliot's Tradition and the Individual Talent, or perhaps that great work of fictionalized literary criticism, Borges' "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote."

      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?

      n 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.