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Of Sirens Silent and Loud: The Language Wars of Joyce and Kafka

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 49, Number 1, Fall 2011
pp. 41-55 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0106



Neither James Joyce nor Franz Kafka was able to regard his native language as completely his own, yet neither chose to write in an alternative one. Instead, they attacked language as they wrote—an assault that both authors conducted by including foreign languages: Yiddish in the case of Kafka; Irish, Italian, Latin, and myriad others in the case of Joyce. This essay explores the ways in which Kafka and Joyce employ these foreign languages in their work. Where in Kafka the "other" languages are never present on the surface but are hid­den underneath his perfect standard German, in Joyce, conversely, the languages are in plain view. I suggest that these two different approaches are, in reality, two sides of the same linguistic coin.

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