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Becoming Human

Becoming Human


Friday 22 March 2013

Room 349 (Senate House, Malet Street, London)

Anke Gilleir (University of Leuven)

“Anna Blume is Put to Death”: The Reframing of Rosa Luxemburg in the German Avant-Garde

In the eyes of many avant-garde artists and intellectuals, the leaders of the German Spartakist movement, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, quite literally embodied the revolution and served as examples of a total commitment to the people’s liberation. After the brutal assassination of Liebknecht and Luxemburg in January 1919 in the wake of the so-called November Revolution, the avant-garde attempted to keep the revolution alive, in part through the commemoration of the political protagonists in its artistic productions. However, this process of immortalization reveals the boundaries of an art and literature that so far had defied all forms of traditional mimetic and iconic representation. In this paper, I focus in particular on the artistic materialization (or lack thereof) of Rosa Luxemburg, and illustrate how the German avant-gardes, with few exceptions, lacked the visual and rhetorical means to represent her as a revolutionary woman intellectual. 

Anke Gilleir is associate professor of Modern German literature at the University of Leuven, where she teaches various subjects on the bachelor and master program. Her main point of interest since the beginning of her research has been “extraordinary women who in eccentrical directions [rush] out of the orbit prescribed to their sex” (Mary Wollstonecraft) in the field of literature from the late eighteenth century onward. In contemporary terms this means that gender is the leitmotiv in her research on German women’s literature, on literature and politics, aesthetics, ideology and intellectualism, and historiography of literature. Her latest publication is a volume on the German-Jewish author and philosopher Margarete Susman (1872-1966): Grenzgänge zwischen Dichtung, Philosophie und Kulturkritik. Über Margarete Susman (Wallstein Göttingen 2012, co-edited with Barbara Hahn) and together with Lorella Bosco she is currently preparing a volume on women artists and writers of the German avant-garde: Schmerz, Lust. Weibliche Avantgarde in Deutschland.

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