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Reading Kafka: Or, If You Find the Odradek, Kill It

Willumsen, Noah (2010) Reading Kafka: Or, If You Find the Odradek, Kill It. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The goal of this paper is to problematize allegorical readings of Kafka. Ever since the first publication of his works, commentators have constructed escapes from his difficult texts into external systems of thought, starting with Max Brod's negative theology and continuing today with unreflective applications of poststructuralist theory. I will focus on "Die Sorge des Hausvaters" (1917) as a case study, though I will also touch on Die Verwandlung (1915), "Von den Gleichnissen" (1922) and the aphorisms. Allegorical readers of "Die Sorge des Hausvaters" have sought to tame the text and its wild creature, Odradek, by establishing stable correspondences between text and theory, replacing Odradek, in all its unknowability, with some element of their own understanding. Some readers have been more careful, building their allegories based on the coherence of the text instead of its correspondence to an external system of ideas: Wilhelm Emrich was first among them. Through an analysis of Emrich's reading of "Die Sorge des Hausvaters," I will show that this self-allegorizing route, too, is insufficient. Using Kafka's aphorisms, I will argue that an interpretation of his works must deal only with their sensus literalis. Their truth is autonomous: independent of reference, undetermined by a conceptual framework. While my analysis is indebted to Deleuze and Guattari, I will move beyond their interpretation of the animal stories as failed escapes and show how Gregor Samsa's metamorphosis and Odradek's ontological evolutions point the way to a new kind of experiential and textual truth. Kafka's texts serve as markers of ecstatic transformation that Kafka sought in the possibilities of writing. Our task as readers is not to reduce these deeply ambiguous flights of language to representation but to engage creatively those very becomings that reading Kafka entails.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMuenzer, Clarkmuenzer@pitt.eduMUENZER
Committee MemberLyon, Johnjblyon@pitt.eduJBLYON
Committee Membervon Dirke, Sabinevondirke@pitt.eduVONDIRKE
Committee MemberCorngold,
Date: 14 May 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 14 April 2010
Approval Date: 14 May 2010
Submission Date: 30 April 2010
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Allegory; Cares of a Family Man; Cares of the House Father; Die Sorge des Hausvaters; Gnosticism; Intensity; Interpretation; Kafka; Odradek; On Parables; The Metamorphosis; Worries of a Family Man; Zürau Aphorisms; Zurau Aphorisms
Other ID:, etd-04302010-150829
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:43
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


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