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Nicola Behrmann
Graduate Director
Associate Professor
Degree: Ph.D., New York University
Email: behrmann@rutgers.edu
Office: 15 Seminary Place, Room 4126
Campus: College Avenue Campus
Office Hours: Tuesdays 1pm - 2:30pm

Research Interests:

Nicola Behrmann’s research touches on literary theory, gender and media studies, and includes the history of the avant-garde, archive and memory, autobiography, European realism and literature in exile. Her monograph, Geburt der Avantgarde – Emmy Hennings (Wallstein, April 2018), reconsiders the hidden contribution of women writers to the European avant-garde movements and critically reflects the possibility of a feminist revision of historiography.

Professor Behrmann has also co-edited two volumes of an annotated study edition containing the novels of Expressionist writer Emmy Hennings (Wallstein, 2016 and 2017) and is currently preparing a third volume with Hennings’ complete lyrical work (Wallstein, forthcoming 2019). She also co-edited the award-winning anthology, Emmy Hennings Dada (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2015), and is co-editor of the special issue “Dada 1916/2016” in The Germanic Review (Winter 2016).

Her current book project, Hunger Artists: Labor and Poverty in German Texts, focuses on the registers of productive versus unproductive labor in literary works, the modality of limitless privation and representation, and the libidinal economies implemented in the labor of the poor. The study circulates around a number of tropes and theories drawn from philosophy (the concept of Sorge, time), religion (asceticism), economics (property, speculation), and psychoanalysis (incorporation, work of mourning).



  • Rutgers Research Council Subvention Award, 2017-2018
  • Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Teaching, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University, 2016
  • Award by Migros Kulturprozent "Schätze heben" (Migros Culture Percentage: Unearthing Treasures) for editorial work on Emmy Hennings Dada (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2015), with Christa Baumberger
  • Marbach-Stipendium (Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach), 2009 and 2011
  • Bernard Heller Dissertation Research Award in Gender and Sexuality Studies (NYU), 2007
  • Women in German Zantop Travel Award, 2006
  • Fulbright Fellow, 2003-04
  • Fellow of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), 2002-03


Books and Edited Volumes:

Geburt der Avantgarde book cover 2018
Geburt der Avantgarde: Emmy Hennings.

Author: Nicola Behrmann
(Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2018). 

Geburt der Avantgarde (Birth of the Avant-Garde) traces the contribution of Emmy Hennings (1885-1948), Expressionist poet and Dada performer, and reevaluates the interdependency between avant-garde and archive, art movements and historiography. The consideration of Hennings’ confessional narrative and a critical analysis of the avant-gardes’ founding gestures reveal the degree to which any art movement, particularly in its self-declaration as anti-art, remains dependent on those very figures that it has sought to repress or undermine.



Cover Hennings Brandmal

Emmy Hennings, 
Das Brandmal. Das ewige Lied. (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2017)
Editors: Nicola Behrmann and Christa Baumberger

The second volume of the annotated study edition of Emmy Hennings’ works and letters contains the diary novel Das Brandmal (1920), the bleak confessions of a streetwalker, and Das ewige Lied (1923), the feverish monologue of a dying singer. The edition rediscovers Hennings as one of the most significant women writers in early 20th-century German literature. Professor Behrmann also contributed the afterword to this volume.





GermanicReviewCover 2016
Special issue of The Germanic Review, vol. 91, no. 4
 (December 2016): "Dada 1916/2016"
Guest editors: Nicola Behrmann and Tobias Wilke








gefaengnis cover 676
Emmy Hennings, Gefängnis. Das graue Haus. Das Haus im Schatten
(Göttingen: Wallstein, 2016)
Editors: Christa Baumberger and Nicola Behrmann

The first volume of the Kommentierte Studienausgabe (annotated study edition) of the works and letters of Expressionist and Dadaist writer Emmy Hennings contains her 1919 novel Gefängnis and two unpublished manuscripts. In these three texts Hennings examines the traumatic experience of imprisonment and gives voice to the female outcast. 




Cover Emmy Hennings Dada crop

Emmy Hennings Dada
 (Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess, 2015)
Author/Editors: Nicola Behrmann and Christa Baumberger

This award-winning anthology offers a new take on the history of the Dada movement in Zurich. The volume contains Hennings' literary works from the Dada period as well as a vast range of archival documents, photographs, and short biographies of 140 people associated with Dada in Zurich. For their editorial work, the authors received the Award "Schätze heben" by the Swiss foundation Migros Kulturprozent. Three Rutgers students and Aresty Research Assistants—Camille Lathbury, Kelsey Haddorff, and Fiona Wong—worked closely with Professor Behrmann to complete research in German on the book. Check out a recent radio interview with Professor Behrmann on DeutschlandradioKultur.


Articles (selected):

"Krankheit und Avantgarde. Sontags Metaphern." Radikales Denken. Zur Aktualität Susan Sontags. Eds. Anna Lisa Dieter/Silvia Tiedtke. Zürich: Diaphanes 2017, 151-167. 

"Varieté, Telefon, Kino: Die Entstehung des Prinzen von Theben." Modern Language Notes, vol. 132, no. 3, special issue: Avant-Garde Revisited: Else Lasker-Schüler (April 2017), 639-657.

(Ed.) Hugo Ball: Briefe an Helene und Ferdinand Schohl. Hugo Ball Almanach. Studien und Texte zu Dada. Neue Folge 8 (2017).

In großer Bedrängnis: Die Briefe von Hugo Ball an Helene und Ferdinand Schohl. Hugo Ball Almanach. Studien und Texte zu Dada. Neue Folge 8 (2017).

"Scenes of Birth and Founding Myths: Dada 1916/17." The Germanic Review, vol. 91, Special Issue: Dada 1916/2016 (November 2016). Eds. Nicola Behrmann and Tobias Wilke.

"Brief/Freundschaft: Rahel Levins Archiv." Ein Buch für Rahel Levin. Ed. Barbara Hahn. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2015.

"Grenzen in Bewegung: Bild und Text in den Historischen Avantgarden." Handbuch Literatur und visuelle Kultur. Eds. Claudia Benthien/Brigitte Weingart. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014.

"You Can't Go Home Again: Exiles in Klaus Mann's The Volcano." "Escape to Life": German Intellectuals in New York. A Compendium on Exile after 1933, eds. Eckart Goebel/Sigrid Weigel, Berlin: deGruyter, 2012.

“Words at War: Hug Ball and Walter Benjamin on Language and History.” Nexus: Essays in German Jewish Studies, vol. 1 (2011)

“Food Comes First: Labor and Poverty in Kafka and Brecht.” Journal of the Kafka Society of America, vol. 32 (2010)

“Das Versprechen des Phallus: Zur Schnitttechnik in Frank Wedekinds Lulu.” Narziss und Eros: Bild oder Text?. Eds. Eckart Goebel/Elisabeth Bronfen, Wallstein Verlag: Göttingen, 2009


Translations (selected):

Avital Ronell: “Die Fabel von der Medientechnik: Unter meiner Aufsicht,” and Laurence A. Rickels: “Halbes Leben.” Medias in Res. Medienkulturwissenschaftliche Positionen, eds. Til Heilmann/Anne von der Heiden/Anna Tuschling, Bielefeld: transcript, 2011

Samuel Weber: “Kommende Demokratie. Zu einer Poetik des Unmöglichen.“ Mnêma. Derrida zum Andenken. Eds. Hans Joachim Lenger/Georg Christoph Tholen, Bielefeld: transcript, 2007

Michael Fried: “Jeff Wall, Wittgenstein und das Alltägliche.” Figurationen 8:2 (Special Issue: Ends of Photography, ed. Ulrich Baer), 2006

Professional Activities:

Elected Member of the Delegate Assembly, Modern Languages Association (MLA), Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic States). 2016-2019

Director of the Rutgers in Berlin Exchange Program

Recent Courses Taught at Rutgers:


Impossible Economies: Literature and Prostitution (Spring 2014, Spring 2019)
What Woman Wants (Spring 2018)
Nervous Systems: Gender, Literature, Technology (Spring 2017) 
20th Century Avant-Gardes, Between Archive and Exile (Spring 2013)
Image, Text, Medium: Literature and the Visual Arts (Spring 2011)


Animal Spirits (Fall 2013, Spring 2019 [Honors College])
Dada to Punk Rock (Fall 2016, Spring 2019)
Tales of Horror (Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018)
From Nietzsche to Superman: Literature and Popular Culture (Fall 2014, Fall 2018)
Realism and Revolution (Spring 2011, Spring 2018)
Dreams of the (Human) Machine (Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017)
Rebels and Loners (Spring 2013, Fall 2017)
Dreams and Delusions (Spring 2017)
Classics of German Cinema (Fall 2014)
Bachelor Machines: Authorship, Automatons, and the Avant-garde (Fall 2010)


Summer Study Abroad Courses:

Berlin Theater ( pdf Summer 2011 , pdf Summer 2012 , Summer 2015)
Art and Architecture ( pdf Summer 2013 )