Ewrt 1 c class 27


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Ewrt 1 c class 27

  1. 1. Novella Length Short Story Discussion: The Metamorphosis Author Introduction: Franz Kafka Historical Context Literary Style Questions QHQ
  2. 2. Austrian Writer ( 1883 - 1924 )
  3. 3.  Kafka was born in Prague, a large provincial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that was home to many Czechs, some Germans, and a lesser number of German-cultured, German-speaking Jews. His father, Hermann Kafka, of humble rural origin, was a hard- working, hard-driving, successful merchant. His mother tongue was Czech, but he spoke German, correctly seeing the language as an important card to be played in the contest for social and economic mobility and security.
  4. 4.  As a youngster, Kafka, like his father, has no more than the most perfunctory relationship with Judaism. He dutifully memorized what was necessary for his bar mitzvah, but he was already an atheist  Writing early became an issue in the antagonism between Kafka and his father; the latter continued to disdain writing as an unworthy occupation long after Kafka became a published author.  He received his doctorate in law on 18 June 1907.  Kafka found a new job with the Workers' Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia. He worked there until her retired in 1922.  In August 1914 the thirty-one-year-old Kafka, having completed the novella In der Strafkolonie (1919; translated as "In the Penal Colony," 1941) and begun working on the novel Der Prozeß (1925; translated as The Trial, 1937), finally moved out of his parents' home.  He suffered a series of failed engagements. Much of Kafka's personal struggles, in romance and other relationships, came, he believed, in part from his complicated relationship with his father.  After horrible suffering, he died on 3 June 1924 of tuberculosis of the larynx.
  5. 5.  His claim to greatness includes his service in completely collapsing the aesthetic distance that had traditionally separated the writer from the reader. In what is probably his most famous work of fiction, Die Verwandlung (1915; translated as "Metamorphosis," 1936-1938), the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, is presented to the reader as a man who has become an insect; Gregor's condition is never suggested to be an illusion or dream (although many critics have commented on its dreamlike qualities). In his shock at the result of Kafka's unmediated aesthetic distance, the reader is led to forgo his usual reflective and explicative function. Kafka has his characters perform that explicative function-- hectically, repeatedly, self-contradictorily, and with a new kind of irony that has come to characterize modern literature. Finally, in an age that celebrates the mass, Kafka redirects the focus to the individual. His characters stand for themselves as individuals; in the case of the male protagonists--and almost all of his protagonists are male--they stand for Kafka himself.
  6. 6.  For most of Kafka's lifetime, his home town of Prague was a Czech city within a German-speaking empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Only at the end of World War I did that Empire disappear, leading to the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia. But in 1912, when Kafka was writing The Metamorphosis, the Czechs had not yet won their independence, and despite its Czech majority, Prague was dominated by a German-speaking elite. Recognizing where the power lay in the city, the Jews of Prague tended to identify with the German minority rather than with the Czech majority; the Czechs therefore considered the Jews to be part of the German community, but the Germans themselves did not. As a result, it was easy for the Jews to feel that they did not fit in anywhere.  In general, Prague was a city of ethnic tensions, primarily between Czechs and Germans and between Czechs and Jews. In 1897, when Kafka was fourteen, the tensions erupted into anti-Semitic riots started by the Czechs. Thus Kafka would have grown up knowing hatred and hostility as well as the difficulty of fitting in.
  7. 7.  Third Person/Limited Omniscient  The story is mainly told through the perspective of Gregor Samsa, as if the narrator were planted with Gregor's human consciousness inside Gregor's insect body. We discover aspects of Gregor's body as he himself discovers them. If he itches, we don't know why until he looks to see what's making him itch. If he's hungry, we don't know what he likes to eat until he discovers his preference for rotten foods.  The narrator does break out of Gregor's perspective on occasion and weaves into the minds of other characters, most notably in the last few paragraphs of the story after Gregor dies. Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
  8. 8.  This novella is an extended literalization of the implications of the metaphor used in its initial sentence. Gregor is metamorphosed into an insectlike species of vermin, with Kafka careful not to identify the precise nature of Gregor’s bughood. German usage applies Kafka’s term, Ungeziefer, to contemptible, spineless, parasitic persons, akin to English connotations of the work “cockroach.” Gregor’s passivity and abjectness before authority link him with these meanings, as Kafka develops the fable by transforming the metaphor back into the imaginative reality of his fiction. After all, Gregor’s metamorphosis constitutes a revelation of the truth regarding his low self-esteem. It is a self-judgment by his repressed and continually defeated humanity.
  9. 9.  Kafka today is a household word around the world, one of the few writers to have an adjective named after him (‘‘Kafkaesque’’), describing the dream-like yet oppressive atmosphere characteristic of his works. When his writings first appeared, however, some reviewers found them baffling, tedious, or exasperating; and the two extreme ideological movements of the twentieth century both found his message unacceptable. The Nazis banned him, and Communist critics denounced him as decadent and despairing.  But fairly quickly Kafka began to be praised by a host of influential writers and intellectuals. The English poet W. H. Auden compared him to Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe. The German writer Thomas Mann, quoted by Ronald Gray in his book Franz Kafka, said that Kafka's works are "among the worthiest things to be read in German literature." And the philosopher Hannah Arendt, writing during World War II, said (also as quoted by Gray) that "Kafka's nightmare of a world ... has actually come to pass.’’
  10. 10. Gregor Samson goes to bed one night and wakes up, late for work, as a cockroach. We learn that Gregor is a traveling salesman. He hates his job but feels obligated to perform it because of his parents. They are indebted to his boss, and because of their advanced age it is left to Gregor to fulfill their debt. He spends day after day at this work, consumed yet unfulfilled. He has not missed a day of work in five years.
  11. 11. 1. Discuss the details Kafka uses to establish Gregor’s life before his metamorphosis into an insect. How do these familiar details and objects define Gregor’s character and life? 1. The relationship between Gregor and his father is at the core of the story. Describe this relationship both before and after Gregor’s metamorphosis. 1. Much of this part of the story, focuses on Gregor’s inner life. Describe Gregor’s private thoughts and emotions; use psychoanalytic theory to discuss his attitudes toward his family and outside world.
  12. 12.  Read The Metamorphosis Chapter 2  Post #20: Choose 1  Grete’s character undergoes a dramatic change in this section. Trace the changes that highlight the changes in her attitude, character, and personality. Can feminist theory help explain her behavior?  Gregor refuses to part with the picture of the woman wrapped in furs on the wall. Why is it important? Explain its symbolic meaning.  In this section of the story, Gregor’s sense of guilt is highlighted. Use Psychoanalytic theory to explain Gregor’s guilt. Consider how his lingering guilt affects his state of mind and his feelings toward his family.