Call for Paper Abstracts for Panel Session ID #15293: ‘All Proceeds into Deepest Darkness’: Problems Speaking in Kafka. Area: Comparative Languages & Theory. Secondary Area: Interdisciplinary Humanities.
For years a horde of unpublished Kafka papers (obtained and passed down by friend Max Brod) was the subject of a bitter legal dispute between Israel and Germany, each of which claimed—in a trial charged with political and cultural-historical resonances, that the manuscripts belonged to them. In life Kafka belonged to the German-speaking Jewish community of Prague, but for many readers today who regard his work as one of the great monuments of 20th century literature, he is a transnational figure whose enigmatic corpus does not belong to any nation or perhaps even to any ‘language.’
That is not to say, however, that Kafka himself was indifferent to language. Within the context of Kafka’s oeuvre, it would be truer to say that to be dispossessed of language or to lose the power to communicate is to be divested of our humanity. At the same time, there is in Kafka’s parables an unsettling sense that their messages, even if interpreted correctly, might not explain anything or direct us anywhere. The question of whether it is even possible to communicate successfully is persistent in thinkers as varied as Nietzsche, Benjamin, Peirce and Wittgenstein. Critics like Theophanidis wonder whether, in Kafka, too, the ‘apparent failure to communicate… is not always to be overcome, corrected, avoided, or fixed’ (Aphelis). Kafka himself wrote: ‘I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.’ Papers will be welcome which creatively explore this critical problem in Kafka’s work.
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