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148 SHOFAR Summer 1996 Vol. 14, No.4 reader will find a plethora of often forgotten names. The rich and colorful scene of a literature byJewish writers in German after the Shoah (in Israel, Austria, and Germany) is a chapter of literary history still awaiting critical attention. Thomas Nolden Department of German Wellesley College The Intellectual Contexts of Kafka's Fiction: Philosophy, Law, Religion, by Arnold Heidsieck. Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1994. 214 pp. $57.00. Heidsieck's contextual study of Kafka is a break with the more recent trends in Kafka criticism that concentrate on the text itself rather than the discourse surrounding it. Instead, he posits the discourses of perception and cognition, law, and ethics as central to understanding Kafka's texts. In so doing, Heidsieck sees Kafka's works shaped by nonaesthetic, academic, and public discussions of the early twentieth century, suggesting that Kafka's modernism arises as much from the discourses of the day as his own introspective imagination and personality. In this study, issues of perception, description, referential belief, cognition, and consciousness remain the central focus for the understanding and interpretation of Kafka's fiction and style. The non-literary sources he encountered in his formative years as a writer provided the impetus for much of his fantasy world. Heidsieck has researched a vast number of published and unpublished sources-reviews, articles on the law, course transcripts, law texts, religious documents-which up till now have remained unexplored in connection with Kafka criticism. The result is a rigorous study that emphasizes Kafka the thinker rather than Kafka the poet. Heidsieck's introduction explains clearly his goals for the book. As a Germanist heavily influenced by philosophical approaches to literature, he is interested in the "understanding of literary truth" (p. 13). By expanding the purview of investigation to Kafka's intellectual sources, Heidsieck necessarily widens the scope of and explanation ofliterary modernism. His assertion that Kafka's precision in description of thoughts, character dispositions, and actions is illustrative of Kafka's desire to portray reality raises questions about the character of reality, and in many ways breaks Book Reviews 149 away from much of recent Kafka CCtUClsm, presenting a challenging perspective that both Kafka scholars and readers should consider. The first four chapters of the work concentrate on investigating the sources for Kafka's methods of descriptive precision: "... what gets narrated in these fictions is almost exclusively what impinges on the main figures' perceptual fields (vision, hearing, etc.) and whatever else occurs in their minds, such as memories, inferences, beliefs, desires, and the like" (p. 10). It is Heidsieck's contention that many Kafka critics have dismissed philosophical readings that can greatly add to understanding the Kafkan reuvre. In this reader's opinion, however, the major strengths of Heidsieck 's book reside in the later chapters which undertake readings of various Kafka texts in more detail and apply the information rather than focusing so heavily on the sources. This combination of discourse analysis and critical reading of various Kafka texts serves to provide new insights into the often interpreted stories like "The Judgment," "Metamorphosis," "In the Penal Colony," "A Country Doctor," and especially the novels The Castle and The Trial. Heidsieck's last chapter, "Religion, Delusion, and Prejudice," concentrates on a reading of The Castle as a portrayal of a remote Central or Eastern European region before the turn of the century with its ethnically diverse but centrally governed structures. According to Heidsieck , "[t]he novel ... employs an array of religious, ethnic, and legal motifs-the ancient strife between Judaism and nascent Christianity, the competing cultural anthropological assumptions underlying Jewish assimilation and Zionism, and the Jews' threatened legal equality within the German-speaking, increasingly antisemitic environment. These motifs capture the individual anxieties and the collective paranoia ofa community threatened by the social and political transition to modernity" (p. 156). Heidsieck goes on to elucidate the metaphorical allusions to Judaism, but even more interesting is his presentation of the New Testament and Christian allusions with Kafka's text. Fascinating are the accounts ofKafka's readings at the time of the writing of The Castle and how his studies lead Kafka to the "understanding of how firmly ethnic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 148-150
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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