Harvard University Department of German

German 149: Franz Kafka -- His Works, His Time, His Impact

Professor Judith Ryan
Office hours: Tues. at 3 and Thurs. at 3

Aims of the course:

     Most of Kafka's works were written between 1912 and 1924. Because his oeuvre is so compact, we will be able to read almost all of it in this course: his three novels and his most important short stories and prose pieces. We will also take a look at some of his letters, especially, his famous letter to his father and his correspondence with his fiancee, Felice Bauer. This should enable us to discover how individual works relate to the corpus as a whole; to explore the relationship between fiction and autobiography; and to examine the development that takes place even over this relatively short period. Lectures will sketch Kafka's life and times, present Kafka's innovative narrative techniques, give readings of the major texts and introduce students to problems of interpretation and theory raised by Kafka's writings. Discussion sections will focus on shorter texts related thematically or stylistically to the texts treated in the lectures. Kafka's impact on later writers and the problematic concept of the "kafkaesque" will be explored in part in lectures and in part by means of a final paper on a text by another author influenced by Kafka or commonly thought to use "kafkaesque" techniques or themes.

Required texts:

Franz Kafka: Amerika (Schocken)
-----------------: The Trial (Schocken)
-----------------: The Castle (Schocken)
-----------------: The Complete Stories (Schocken)
-----------------: Letters to Felice (Schocken)
-----------------: The Diaries of Franz Kafka (Schocken)

Optional Texts:
(Choose one.)

Rex Warner: The Aerodrome (Oxford Twentieth Century Classics)
Samuel Beckett: Watt (Grove)
Elias Canetti: Auto de fe (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich)
Jorge Luis Borges: Labyrinths (New Directions)
Bruno Schulz: The Street of Crocodiles (Penguin)
Alain Robbe-Grillet: In the Labyrinth (Grove)

Course Outline
  1. Tues. Sept. 19: Introduction
    Thurs. Sept. 21: Amerika

  2. Tues. Sept. 26: Amerika
    Thurs. Sept. 28 Amerika

  3. Tues. Oct. 3: Amerika
    Thurs. Oct. 5: "Description of a Struggle"
      section: "The Sudden Walk"; "Resolutions"

  4. Tues. Oct. 10: The Judgment; Letters to Felice Thurs. Oct. 12: The Metamorphosis   section: "Blumfeld"; "Bachelor's Ill Luck"

  5. Tues. Oct. 17: "In the Penal Colony"
    Thurs. Oct. 19: no lecture
      section: "A Visit to a Mine"

  6. Tues. Oct. 24: The Trial
    Thurs. Oct. 26: The Trial
      section: "My Neighbor"' "Poseidon"

  7. Tues. Oct. 31: The Trial
    Thurs. Nov. 2: The Trial
      section: "Before the Law"; "The Problems of Our Laws"; "Advocates"

  8. Tues. Nov. 7: "A Country Doctor"
    Thurs. Nov. 9: Midsemester Examination
      section: discussion of proposed paper topics

  9. Tues. Nov. 14: "The Great Wall of China"
    Thurs. Nov. 16: "Sancho Pansa"; "The Silence of the Sirens"; "On Parables"
      section: "The City Coat of Arms"; "An Imperial Message"; "The Conscription
      of Troops"

  10. Tues. Nov. 21: The Castle
    Thurs. Nov. 23: THANKSGIVING BREAK

  11. Tues. Nov. 28: The Castle
    Thurs. Nov. 30: The Castle
      section: "The Test"; "The Knock at the Manor Gate"

  12. Tues. Dec. 5: "A Hunger Artist"
    Thurs. Dec. 7: "Investigations of a Dog"
      section: "The Top"; further discussion of paper topics

  13. Tues. Dec. 12: "The Burrow"
    Thurs. Dec. 14: "Josephine the Singer"
      section: "The Bucket Rider"; "The Hunter Gracchus"

  14. Tues. Dec. 19: Summing up.
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