Vivian Liska

 Vivian Liska is Professor of German Literature and Director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. Her research focuses on German and comparative modernist literature, German-Jewish literature and culture, and literary and cultural theory.

She has published extensively on Rahel Varnhagen, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Arendt, Adorno, Blanchot, Uwe Johnson, Ilse Aichinger, Nelly Sachs, Paul Celan, contemporary Austrian-Jewish authors, on expressionism, modern messianism, and, most recently, on manifestations of the Jewish tradition in contemporary thought.

Main Book Publications:

As editor or co-editor: The two volume work on Modernism  in the ICLA series "History of the European Literatures" (2007), The Power of the Sirens  (2007), Theodor Herzl between Europe and Zion (2007), Contemporary Jewish Writing in Europe (2007) and most recently What does the Veil Know? (2009) and Walter Benjamin und das Wiener Judentum (2009)

As author: Die Nacht der Hymnen (On Paul Celan's early poetry), Das schelmische Erhabene (On Else Lasker‑Schüler); ‘Die Moderne - ein Weib (On turn of the century women novelists) and, most recently, Giorgio Agambens leerer Messianismus (2008) and When Kafka says We. Uncommon Communities in  German-Jewish Literature  (2009.)

She is currently working on a book about Kafka and Philosophy.


When Kafka Says We

In his diary entry from 8 January 1914, Franz Kafka writes: "What have I in common with Jews? I have hardly anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe." Taking this diary entry as a starting point, this lecture will explore Kafka's ambivalent relationship to the Jewish community and to social, religious, ethnic, and ideological groupings in general. Close readings of short texts will demonstrate how this ambivalence inspired innovative modes of writing which unmask the oppressive cohesion of communal groupings and how they testify to the specific potential of literature to configure alternative visions of communal bonds.