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Reviewed by:
  • Kafka for the Twenty-First Century ed. by Stanley Corngold and Ruth V. Gross
  • Dagmar C. G. Lorenz
Stanley Corngold and Ruth V. Gross, eds., Kafka for the Twenty-First Century. Rochester: Camden House, 2011. 286 pp.

Based on the presentations held at the conference on the subject “Kafka at 125,” which took place in 2009 in North Carolina, the volume Kafka for the Twenty-First Century contains a representative collection of Kafka scholarship at the beginning of the new millennium. It can be read as both a survey of approaches to Kafka’s writings that evolved over time and as an invitation to pursue the many new directions in Kafka research that have emerged in tandem [End Page 155] with international scholarly trends. The contributors from the United States and Europe includes major figures in Kafka research such as Walter H. Sokel, Stanley Corngold, Ruth Gross, and Peter Beicken; and innovators like Iris Bruce, Katja Garloff, Rolf Goebel, and Ritche Robertson, who have enlivened the field of Kafka research by opening new critical perspectives; and younger scholars such as Doreen Densky and Saskia Ziolkowski, whose perceptive contributions reveal that in the twenty-first century Kafk a continues to be a thought-provoking topic. Looking back at a century of literary and biographical research, translations, debates, and ever-more-precise contextualization of Kafka, the volume at hand proves that there is no end in sight to Kafk a scholarship.

Following Corngold and Gross’s detailed introduction, Roland Reuß’s insightful article “Running Texts, Stunning Draft s” provides a new assessment of the material basis of Kafka’s texts, his manuscripts replete with changes and deletions. Reuß convincingly argues on the basis of the physical evidence present in the handwritten manuscripts that Kafka’s wording cannot be “taken for granted” (24). Rather, he observes an “undecidability of passages” (25) that is not reflected in any of the Kafka editions in print and can only be understood from the manuscripts. Mark Harman revisits the topic of Kafk a’s metaphors under the auspices of the “Gordian Knot.” Revealing the ease with which metaphors occur to Kafka’s associative mind, often in the form of “tormented images” (48), Harman examines the author’s doubts about the validity of his images and the inner-textual scrutiny to which he subjects them. Walter Sokel in his impressive article on the complex interrelationship between Nietzsche and Kafka, whom he terms a “Nietzschean from the beginning” (64), sheds light on both authors under the auspices of the Dionysian, whereas Uta Degner examines the affinity Kafka had for Flaubert, stressing the structural aspects their writing shared. Katja Garloff’s perceptive article “Kafka’s Racial Melancholy,” which focuses on the ape Rotpeter in “Bericht für eine Akademie,” stands in the critical postcolonial tradition and the discussion of Jewish issues in Kafka based on insights by Buber, Gilman, Bhabha, Corngold, and Liska. Jacob Burnett explores the absence of a transcendental center in Kafka’s writing and introduces the concept of the “strange loop” and its visualization by the Möbius strip to elucidate narrative movements in Kafka’s prose. These movements may suggest progression and mobility—upward, downward, or sideways—without there actually being any progression at all. In Doreen Densky’s contribution, the examination of proxies provides insight into the multiple connections or correspondences established in [End Page 156] Kafka’s texts between individuals, institutions, narrative agents, and between texts of different genres. Ritchie Robertson, rejecting the notion that Kafka was, as some critics have held, a prophet of things to come, instead attributes to Kafka a keen sense of power structures and power strategies, of which he was very wary. With reference to Erving Goffman, Robertson suggests that Kafka’s concern was escaping from all-encompassing institutions, be it the family, law enforcement, or bureaucracies, as in The Castle. Rolf Goebel examines Kafka’s literary universe in terms of Virilio’s “teleoptical city,” detecting the author’s critical attitude toward modern technology. The topic of Kafka’s ambivalence toward technology—Goebel terms him both a “technophile” and a “technophobe” (155)—can be traced back to Canetti and Theweleit. By adding Virilio to the equation, Goebel...


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