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Volker Kaiser

Associate Professor


German literature and philosophy from the later 18th to the 20th century, literary theory, German intellectual history

Volker Kaiser joined the German Department of the University of Virginia in August 1987 with a Ph.D. in German Literature from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. His research and teaching interests concentrated on the following subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies; Semiology; the Epistemology of Tropes; German Literary History (with a focus on the periods between 1770-1830, and 1900-1960); German Intellectual History (from Leibniz to the present); the Frankfurt School; Lyric Poetry.

He published two monographs pertaining to these areas (close readings of texts by Rilke, Benn, Celan, Brecht and Benjamin), and he is currently preparing a manuscript on “The Poetics of the Name” for publication.

Over the past 30 years, Volker Kaiser taught mainly in and for the German Department, and, occasionally, for the Comparative Literature and the Modern Studies Program. He served the German Department as Director of Undergraduate Studies (1994-1996), Director of Graduate Studies (2001-05), and Chair (2006-09; 2010-13). Other significant contributions included the establishment of the Max Kade Visiting Professorship (in existence since 1995), the co-founding of the Center for German Studies (in 2008; Director 2008-09; 2010-13), and the participation in faculty exchange (Mannheim, 1996) and research cooperation with German universities (LMU 2003; RUB 2010, 2013 and 2017). Mr. Kaiser, who has been and will continue to be a member of the IBS, GSA and IAPL, retires from UVa on December 31, 2018.


Das Echo jeder Verschattung. Figur und Reflexion bei Rilke, Benn Und Celan. Passagen-Verlag: Wien, 1993.

Risus Mortis and Strange Angels: Brechts Gedichte und Benjamins Kommentar. Mannheimer kultur- und literaturwissenschaftliche Studien. St. Ingbert 2001.


“The Sounds of Music: Listening to Nietzsche, Thomas Mann and Kafka.” (under review)

“Political Lace. Heinrich Heine’s Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen.” (under review)

"On Poetic Autobiography: Reading Brecht's "Erinnerung an die Maria A.", in Rethinking Autobiography, ed. by Manfred Schneider and Volker Kaiser (edition in progress)

 “’Fortress Europe’: Racism and Ethnocentrism in Europe in the Fascist and the Postwar Era.” In Perspectives on Europe: Literary, Cultural and Historical Explorations, ed. by Frank Degler, Roehrig Verlag, St. Ingbert 2008. 

 “Rethinking Autobiography” In: Scripts As/For Life, ed. by Manfred Schneider and Volker Kaiser (edition in progress)

“Adornos Sehnsucht.” In 1.Jahresband des deutschsprachigen Forschungszentrums für Philosophie, hg. von Mirko Wischke. Universitätsverlag Olomouc: Olomouc 2005, 199-214.

 “Epistemological Breakdown and Passionate Eruption: Reading Kleist’s Die Verlobung in St. Domingo.” In Studies in Romanticism. Special Issue on Readings in German Romanticism, ed. by Michel Chaouli. Boston 2003, 341-367.

“Karl Marx: Darstellung und Kritik als Versprechen zur Moderne.” In Jürgen Fohrmann (ed.), 1848, 1949 und das Versprechen zur Moderne. Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann, 2003, 65-84.

“Rewriting the Oedipal Scene. Image and Discursivity in Wim Wender’s Journey Until the End of the World,” in philosophies of the visible, ed. By Wilhelm S. Wurzer. Continuum: New York & London, 2002, 155-165.) Co-authored by Robert Leventhal.

“Goethes ‘Ich’ und das Subjekt der Dichtung. Zur Genealogie des Gedichts ‘Auf dem See.’ In Goethe-Yearbook 2002, 197-211.

“Rückkehr des Unbekannten. Reflexionen aus Amerika.” In Kultur/Revolution, hg. von Jürgen Link, Heft 9 (September 2001). Co-authored by Marianne Schuller.

“Der Haken der Auslegung. Zur Lektüre von Kleists Die Verlobung in St. Domingo.” In: Anthenäum. Jahrbuch für Romantik, vol. 7 (1997), 193-210.


“Der Phall Brecht. Eine andere Lektüre vom armen B.B.” In: The Brecht Yearbook 19 (1994), 203-223.


“Poeticizing the Enlightenment. Kant’s Question-Rorty’s Response.” In: Impure Reason. Dialectic of Enlightenment in Germany, ed. by W. Daniel Wilson and Robert C. Holub. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993, 87-105.


“Remarks on the Symbolic Third. A Response to Vincent Crapanzano’s ‘The Postmodern Crisis.’” In: Discussing the Postmodern, ed. by Ravindra S. Khare. New York/London: University of America Press, 1993.


“Die Katastrophe der Repräsentation. Überlegungen zum figurativen Sprechen in Rilkes Dichtung.” Deutsche Vierteljahresschrift 65 (1991): 695-716.



Summer Research Grant, UVa College of Arts & Sciences, 2006  and 2007

Sesquicentennial Fellowship, Center for Advanced Studies, University of Virginia, January-December 1997, and January - August 2003

Fourth Year Fellowship for Assistant Professor, University of Virginia, Fall Semester 1991,

Faculty Summer Research Grant, University of Virginia, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1996

Dean’s Fellowship, The Johns Hopkins University, 1987

Gilman Tuition Fellowship, The Johns Hopkins University, 1982-1987

DAAD Fellowship, University of Hamburg, 1985-1986

The German Society of Maryland, 1985

Roulston Award, The Johns Hopkins University, 1984

Fulbright Grant, 1981-1982, University of Minnesota and Ohio State University

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