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Kafka for the Twenty-First Century

Kafka for the Twenty-First Century

Stanley Corngold
Ruth V. Gross
Volume: 104
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Kafka for the Twenty-First Century
    Book Description:

    Franz Kafka's literary career began in the first decade of the twentieth century and produced some of the most fascinating and influential works in all of modern European literature. Now, a hundred years later, the concerns of a new century call for a look at the challenges facing Kafka scholarship in the decades ahead: What more can we hope to learn about the context in which Kafka wrote? How does understanding that context affect how we read his stories? What are the consequences of new critical editions that offer unprecedented access to Kafka's works in manuscript form? How does our view of Kafka change the priorities and fashions of literary scholarship? What elements in Kafka's fiction will find resonance in the historical context of a new millennium? How do we compose a coherent account of a personality with so many contradictory aspects? All these questions and more are addressed by the essays in this volume, written by a group of leading international Kafka scholars. Contributors: Peter Beicken, Iris Bruce, Jacob Burnett, Uta Degner, Doreen Densky, Katja Garloff, Rolf Goebel, Mark Harman, Robert Lemon, Roland Reuß, Ritchie Robertson, Walter Sokel, John Zilcosky, Saskia Ziolkowski. Stanley Corngold is Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. Ruth V. Gross is Professor of German and Head of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at North Carolina State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-758-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Ruth V. Gross
  4. List of Abbreviations for Kafka Citations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)
    Stanley Corngold and Ruth V. Gross

    Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883, into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, the capital of the Czech Lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He died at the age of forty-one with the dubious luck of one who died too soon to experience the Nazi terror. His favorite sister, Ottla; his second fiancée, Julie Wohryzek; and his lover, Milena Jesenská, a brilliant Czech writer, were all murdered in concentration camps. Kafka never married — though he fell in love easily, and was easily loved — despite having been engaged three times, twice to the same woman, Felice Bauer. Felice...

  6. 1: Running Texts, Stunning Drafts
    (pp. 24-47)
    Roland Reuß

    During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Paul Raabe’s edition of Kafka’s stories titled Sämtliche Erzählungen sold a million copies in Germany alone and functioned as the main textual source for many Kafka scholars. This edition contains a curious emendation that has a certain exemplarity. Both the manuscript and all the authorized published versions of Kafka’s story “The New Lawyer” (“Der neue Advokat”) contain the sentence “Im Allgemeinen billigt das Barreau die Aufnahme des Bucephalus” (In general the bar approves the admission of Bucephalus, KSS 60). If any sentence of Kafka’s might be termed authentic, it is this one: it is...

  7. 2: “Torturing the Gordian Knot”: Kafka and Metaphor
    (pp. 48-63)
    Mark Harman

    Although Kafka distrusts his own gift for metaphor, he resorts to metaphorical language both in his fiction and in his autobiographical writings. Metaphors occur to him in what W. B. Yeats called the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart,”¹ and his fiction often germinates from intensely personal images. We can watch him experimenting in his diaries with a tangle of often tormented images, which he, metaphorically of course, likens to the Gordian knot.

    In Kafka studies, where there has been much discussion about metaphor, the pendulum can swing too far, obliterating the partial validity of previous perspectives. Thanks...

  8. 3: Nietzsche and Kafka: The Dionysian Connection
    (pp. 64-74)
    Walter H. Sokel

    “Nietzsche and Kafka” is a significant but many-sided topic. That Kafka was always a Nietzschean from the beginning is confirmed by Max Brod, when he tells us about their first meeting. They indulged in a philosophical argument, in which Brod took the side of his favorite philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, while Kafka took Nietzsche’s side. Kafka was a Nietzschean from way back, and he remained one throughout his work in many differing ways.

    Their relationship is by no means simple. Nothing is simple where those two — Friedrich and Franz — are concerned. There are several distinct aspects and areas in...

  9. 4: What Kafka Learned from Flaubert: “Absent-Minded Window-Gazing” and “The Judgment”
    (pp. 75-88)
    Uta Degner

    Kafka’s repeated declaration about an “elective affinity” with the French writer Gustave Flaubert — here in a letter of November 1912 to Felice Bauer — has led to various suggestions from scholars about how to interpret Flaubert’s role in Kafka’s writing.¹ Attention has primarily focused on psychoanalytical and narratological parallels between the two authors. Indeed, it is apparent that Kafka models his letters to Felice Bauer on Flaubert’s letters to Louise Colet; and Kafka’s narrators might have learned from the French model and its “impassiveness.” However, while these suggestions are useful in highlighting some aspects of Kafka’s writing and personality,...

  10. 5: Kafka’s Racial Melancholy
    (pp. 89-104)
    Katja Garloff

    Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy” (“Ein Bericht für eine Akademie,” 1919) has often been read as a parody of Jewish assimilation into German culture, in part because it was first published in Martin Buber’s acclaimed Jewish monthly Der Jude. In this reading, the text would suggest a problematic convergence between racial antisemitism and a Zionistinspired critique of assimilation. The parable of the African ape that becomes an almost-human European intimates that biological differences set the Jews apart despite all their efforts at acculturation. The fact that “A Report” ends by describing the ape’s nightly encounters with a creature of...

  11. 6: Strange Loops and the Absent Center in The Castle
    (pp. 105-119)
    Jacob Burnett

    Franz Kafka (like the rest of us) faces the disappearance of the millennia-old Transcendent Center from European consciousness. In the absence he does not find cause for despair but from it discovers a new dimension of existence. Through the deployment of underlying narrative “strange loops” (to borrow a term from Douglas Hofstader), Kafka’s work, in particular The Castle (Das Schloss, 1926), constructs an art that can survive the disappearance of a grounding center. His novel is an endless stairway on which, discovering that we are not lamed by the absence of God, we walk briskly on to meet ourselves in...

  12. 7: Proxies in Kafka: Koncipist FK and Prokurist Josef K.
    (pp. 120-135)
    Doreen Densky

    “I was not at all certain whether I had any advocates, I could not find out anything definite about it,” says a nameless narrator in the opening of a posthumously published text by Franz Kafka (CS, 449).¹ Neither is there any certainty about the appropriate place to search: the labyrinth of corridors and staircases around the narrator suggests places for quiet contemplation, not a law court where advocates are typically found. Asking himself why he continues to look in this unlikely place, the narrator answers: “Because I was searching for an advocate everywhere; he is needed everywhere, if anything less...

  13. 8: Kafka, Goffman, and the Total Institution
    (pp. 136-150)
    Ritchie Robertson

    Of all authors writing in German, Kafka is the one whose works have particularly fascinated readers throughout the world. One result is a division between what may be called the lay readers of Kafka and the professional or academic readers. The two groups are divided, in particular, by their attitude to the widespread notion that Kafka’s works must in some sense prophesy the Third Reich and the atrocities of the mid-twentieth century. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, and hence largely for a lay audience, in 1963, George Steiner asserted that Kafka “was, in a literal sense, a prophet.” He...

  14. 9: Kafka in Virilio’s Teletopical City
    (pp. 151-164)
    Rolf J. Goebel

    Kafka’s actuality emerges from the ability of his texts to enlighten, explain, and subvert some of the most pressing issues in our global culture today. Nothing seems to resonate more acutely with today’s culture than Kafka’s persistent questioning of modern techno logies of travel (railway, automobile, or airplane), audiovisual reproduction (photography, film, gramophone), and communication (telephone, telegraph).¹

    In a recent paper, Patrick Fortmann has shown how Kafka’s “Little Automobile Story” elucidates the interconnections between modern traffic, circulation, and communication and his own acts of writing.² Moreover, Kafka’s texts persistently respond to historic changes in technological media and their impact on...

  15. 10: Kafka’s Visual Method: The Gaze, the Cinematic, and the Intermedial
    (pp. 165-178)
    Peter Beicken

    Kafka is remarkable, above all, for the visual density of his writing, a visual prowess that can be linked to his self-image as an “eye-person” (Augenmensch).¹ His extraordinary literary imagination generates an imagery that startles and challenges the reader who expects the recognizable. Kafka’s intent, it has been said, is “to make strange the familiar.”² Like his much admired model, Gustave Flaubert, he radically changed the fictional worlds that European realism had mapped out.³ The transformative power of his writing, however, unlike Flaubert’s, arises from the stark, suggestive force of his images: the resulting dynamics of puzzlement and shock reveal...

  16. 11: “Samsa war Reisender”: Trains, Trauma, and the Unreadable Body
    (pp. 179-206)
    John Zilcosky

    Franz Kafka once claimed that all human beings were caught between two competing technological systems: one sponsoring “ghostly” absence (the postal system, telegraph, and telephone) and one encouraging “natural” presence (trains, planes, and automobiles). To humanity’s woe, the ghostly side was winning: “To attain a natural intercourse, a tranquility of souls, [humanity] has invented the railway, the motor car, the aeroplane — but nothing helps anymore: These are evidently inventions devised at the moment of crashing” (LM, 223; BM, 302).¹ Kafka famously spent most of his life on the side of the ghosts, sending Felice Bauer up to three letters...

  17. 12: The Comfort of Strangeness: Correlating the Kafkaesque and the Kafkan in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled
    (pp. 207-221)
    Robert Lemon

    Although an author’s name rarely becomes famous enough to give rise to its own adjective, this honor comes with a price. The phrase is now subject to vague and broad usage that sheds light on neither its object nor its origin. The expression “Kafkaesque” is a case in point. As Rainer Nägele observes, Duden’s definition (“in the manner of Kafka’s description; uncanny and threatening in an enigmatic fashion”) manages to combine tautology with awkwardness.¹ In the English-speaking world the term also denotes the mysterious and unsettling qualities associated with Kafka’s texts, whether manifested in Gregor Samsa’s transformation in The Metamorphosis...

  18. 13: Kafka’s Journey into the Future: Crossing Borders into Israeli/Palestinian Worlds
    (pp. 222-236)
    Iris Bruce

    Franz Kafka’s writings have crossed many ideological and cultural borders, yet the country to which he wanted to emigrate — Palestine then, Israel now — named a street after every important Jewish figure and virtually every Zionist except Kafka. Even his friend Max Brod, a writer of much lesser renown, is now receiving this posthumous honor in Tel Aviv.¹ The reasons for ignoring Kafka were largely ideological: Kafka’s generation of German-speaking Jews presented a challenge to the militant and chauvinistic ideology of political Zionism that became prominent after the Second World War. Kafka was also regarded as a Diaspora writer,...

  19. 14: Kafka and Italy: A New Perspective on the Italian Literary Landscape
    (pp. 237-250)
    Saskia Elizabeth Ziolkowski

    Examining modern Italian literature is a Kafkaesque endeavor, because it is not always entirely clear if it exists. Critics have tended to concentrate on movements or smaller trends, such as frammentismo, decadentismo, ermetismo, crepuscularismo, and futurismo, or on particular figures, such as Luigi Pirandello, Gabriele D’Annunzio, F. T. Marinetti, Italo Svevo, and Carlo Emilio Gadda, or on regional clusters of various authors. While these approaches have offered a minute anatomy of Italy’s various authors and movements, they have also isolated Italian literature from larger comparative studies and necessarily excluded certain authors from consideration. The broader term “modernism,” meanwhile, which has...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-272)
  21. Contributors
    (pp. 273-276)
  22. Index
    (pp. 277-286)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)