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:

  • Tuesday & Thursday 5:30 - 6:30 pm
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mailing address:

  • CB 1104
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899

Professor Beals' research focuses on experimental movements in 20th-century and contemporary German poetry, 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. 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, he 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.

Professor Beals received his BA in Philosophy from Oberlin College, with a minor in German. He received his MA and PhD 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). He teaches general courses on German language and culture, as well as courses focused more specifically on experimental literature.


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)

recent courses

Advanced German: Core Course IV (German 301D)

Discussion of literary and non-literary texts combined with an intensive grammar review. Systematic introduction to the expressive functions of German, with an emphasis on spoken and written communication. In addition to regular class meetings, students should sign up for a twice-weekly subsection.

    Literary Seminar: Media and Experiment (German 528)

    This seminar covers innovative engagements with new media over roughly the past century, incorporating both theoretical frameworks and aesthetic responses. On the one hand, the course will cover major works of media theory from this period, particularly as they apply to literature, with an emphasis on German authors. Theorists are likely to include Benjamin, Heidegger, Adorno, McLuhan, Enzensberger, Kittler, and Siegert. On the other hand, we will consider how new media have shaped aesthetic practices, particularly in literary movements identified as experimental or avant-garde. The focus in this respect will be on German-language contributions to movements such as Dada and Concrete poetry, including the works of Raoul Hausmann, Max Bense, and Ferdinand Kriwet. In addition, we will consider works by authors such as Yoko Tawada that foreground the role of written media, and by contemporary writers and artists such as Julius Popp and Amaranth Borsuk who work at the intersection of textual and digital media.

      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.

        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.