Nicola Behrmann works on late 18th- to 20th-century German literature with a comparative perspective. Her research combines literary theory, psychoanalysis, and sociology with gender and media studies, and focuses on historical avant-garde movements (1900–1930), poetic realism, and autobiography. Within this frame, she is interested in the politics of the archive, modern mysticism and the political and in non-representational forms of memory contained in literary, filmic, visual, and architectonic spaces.
Her book Geburt der Avantgarde – Emmy Hennings (Birth of the Avant-Garde) considers the hidden contribution of women artists to early 20th-century literature and art and undertakes a critical and fundamental revision of established avant-garde history, historiography, and theory. The book has been awarded with the DAAD/GSA Best Book Prize in 2019.
Nicola Behrmann has co-edited three volumes of Emmy Hennings, Werke und Briefe. Kommentierte Studienausgabe, and is co-editor of the award-winning anthology, Emmy Hennings Dada, with texts, documents, photographs, and other archival materials, including 140 short biographies of members of the Dada movement in Zurich. She co-edited a special issue of The Germanic Review on “Dada 1916/2016” and has published articles on Hugo Ball and Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht and Franz Kafka, Klaus Mann, Frank Wedekind, Alfred Hitchcock, Susan Sontag, and Unica Zürn as well as on Rahel Varnhagen and Adalbert Stifter. She recently co-edited a special issue on “Prostitution and Sex Work” in GENDER: Journal for Gender, Culture, and Society, and a special issue on “in/visibility” in Modern Language Notes.
Currently, Nicola Behrmann is completing a book entitled The Mystical Archive, on the connection between phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and political theology in the 1920s that can be traced in a range of literary works as well as in modern dance. She is also completing two articles, one titled “My Account: St. Augustine’s Confessions and Digital Autobiography” and the other on “Werther’s Caskets: Letters, Lotte, Landscape”. In 2021, she has co-founded the collaborative research group Parergal Zones: Berlin, 1790–1990.
- 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
Books and Edited Volumes:
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.
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: Gefängnis – Das graue Haus – Das Haus im Schatten (Wallstein, 2016); the second volume, edited together with Christa Baumberger, contains the two novels Das Brandmal – Das 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.
Special issue of The Germanic Review, vol. 91, no. 4 (December 2016): "Dada 1916/2016"
Guest editors: Nicola Behrmann and Tobias Wilke
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.
“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.
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
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:
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)
20th Century Avant-Gardes, Between Archive and Exile (Spring 2013)
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)
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)