• Nicola Behrmann
  • Nicola Behrmann
  • Director of Graduate Studies
  • Associate Professor
  • Degree: Ph.D., New York University
  • Office: 15 Seminary Place, Room 4126
  • Campus: College Avenue Campus
  • Office Hours:

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Research Interests:

Nicola Behrmann works on late 19th-century to contemporary German literature from a comparative perspective and with a focus on early 20th-century avant-garde movements. Her research combines literary theory and critical historiography with gender and media studies. She has written on theories of the archive, on autobiography and self-writing (Emmy Hennings, Susan Sontag, Wolfgang Herrndorf, Unica Zürn), on the relation of image and text (Mallarmé, Apollinaire, John Heartfield, Hugo Ball), and on non-representational forms of memory in literary, visual, and architectonic spaces (Adalbert Stifter, Paul Celan, Walter Benjamin). She has also worked on film (flirtation in Alfred Hitchcock) and popular culture (enthusiasm in Kleist and Britney Spears).

Her book Geburt der Avantgarde (Birth of the Avant-Garde, 2018) considers the hidden contribution of a women writer and performance artist to vanguard literature and art while undertaking a critical and fundamental revision of established avant-garde theory. The study has been awarded with the DAAD/GSA Best Book Prize in 2019. In addition, and related to this study, Professor Behrmann has co-edited the first three volumes of an annotated edition of the writings of Emmy Hennings; and she has co-edited the award-winning anthology Emmy Hennings Dada (2015), a collection of mostly unpublished material – literary texts, documents, photographs. For this volume, she has compiled 140 short biographies of members of the Dada movement which demonstrates the intellectual depth and political scope of the Dada Zurich group in a unique topography. 

Professor Behrmann co-edited three special issues: on text/image relations for Modern Language Notes (“in/visible,” 2022); on the representation of sex work in literature and culture for GENDER: Journal for Gender, Culture and Society (“Prostitution und Sexarbeit,” 2022); and, on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the Dada movement, for The Germanic Review (“Dada 1916/2916,” 2016). Her research has appeared in The Germanic Review, Imaginations, Journal of the Kafka Society in America, Modern Language Notes, and Nexus, and she is contributing as literary and cultural critic to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Currently, Professor Behrmann is completing a book length study titled Mystisches Archiv. Macht und Widerstand in Literatur und Tanz, 1916–1946 (Mystical Archive: Forces of Resistance in Literature and Dance, 1916–1946), which, in contrast to established paradigms such as Neue Sachlichkeit or the New Woman, traces a paradoxical shifting between preservation and withdrawal, assertion and annihilation that is hosted in literary texts, psychoanalytical case studies, dance performances, and interrogation protocols of the interwar period. This new history of an exiled or hidden modernity relates classical archival theories (Derrida, deCerteau) with contemporary studies of archival politics (Ann Stoler, Ariela Azoulay). Between 2010 and 2015 Behrmann has served as Academic Director of the summer study abroad program “Rutgers in Berlin”; she is founding member and faculty of the annual Summer Academy “Media Philology” (since 2018); and she has recently co-founded the international collaborative research group “Parergal Zones”.


  • DAAD/GSA Best Book Prize for Geburt der Avantgarde, 2019
  • 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
  • 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




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 Brandmalgefaengnis cover 676

Emmy Hennings Gedichte vol 3










Emmy Hennings: Werke und Briefe, vol. 1-3
Co-editor: Nicola Behrmann 
(Göttingen: Wallstein, 2016-2020)

The first volume of the annotated study edition of the writings of Emmy Hennings, edited together with Christa Baumberger, contains three autobiographical novels on Henning’s imprisonment: GefängnisDas graue HausDas Haus im Schatten (Wallstein, 2016); the second volume, edited together with Christa Baumberger, contains the two novels Das BrandmalDas ewige Lied (Wallstein, 2016), in which Hennings tells about her life on the streets and her illness; the third volume, edited together with Simone Sumpf, contains Hennings’ complete poems, Gedichte (Wallstein, forthcoming 2020), many of which have been unpublished until now. All three volumes contain an extended apparatus of additional materials such as reviews and photographs, and a detailed commentary regarding genesis and receptions of each text.



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.



 Edited Volumes:

front cover


Special issue of Modern Languages Notes, vol. 137, no. 3 (April 2022): "in/visible"
Guest editors: Nicola Behrmann and Antje Pfannkuchen







NB front cover


Special issue of GENDER, vol. 14, no. 14 (2022): "Prostitution and Sexarbeit"
Guest editors: Heike Maurer, Sabine Grenz, Nicola Behrmann, Martin Lücke, and Romana Sammern






GermanicReviewCover 2016

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








Articles (selected):

Ach, das ist sie selbst. Zur Prosaskizze »Charmette« von Emmy Hennings. [On Emmy Hennings' prose sketch »Charmette«]. Hugo Ball Almanach N.F. (2022), 14–16

“Frauen im Krankenhaus.” Literatur und Kritik 561/562 (März 2022), Special Issue: Angst vor dem Krankenhaus. Eds. Fatima Naqvi and Andrea Grill, 78–83.

“Celans Poetik der Avantgarde.” Celan-Perspektiven 2020. Eds. Bernd Auerochs et al. (Heidelberg: Winter Verlag 2020), 13–27.

“American Flirt: Surface in Hitchcock’s The Birds,” RISS. Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, no. 90: Flirt, eds. Marcus Coelen, Judith Kaspar, Karl-Josef Pazzini, Mai Wegener, 2019. 

"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.

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.

“Over Your Dead Mother: Crypts and Vaults in Stifter’s »Turmalin«.” Imaginations 2.1 (2011), Special Issue: Crypt Studies. Ed. Laurence A. Rickels, 20–31.

“Words at War: Hugo 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:

Member of the Aresty Research Council, Rutgers University (2019-)

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:


20th Century Avant-Gardes, Between Archive and Exile (Spring 2013, Fall 2023)                                                                                Mysticism and Objectivity: The 1920s (Spring 2022)
Poetics of Poverty (Fall 2021)
Survival and Self-Expenditure: On Autobiography (Fall 2020)
Impossible Economies: Literature and Prostitution (Spring 2014, Spring 2019)
What Woman Wants (Spring 2018)
Nervous Systems: Gender, Literature, Technology (Spring 2017) 
Image, Text, Medium: Literature and the Visual Arts (Spring 2011)


Happy Place (Fall 2021)
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, Fall 2021, Fall 2023)
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)