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Spring 2018

Kafka Goes to Palestine

 

March 24th - April 21st

Saturdays

Session I: 11am - 2pm

Session II: 6pm - 9pm

Course convener: A. M. Awad

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For more than a century, Franz Kafka has posed a challenge to interpretation. Philosophers have debated his work while theologians have probed its mystical elements. Most recently, the legal battle over his physical papers confounded the Israeli state, unsettling the Zionist identity of religion and nationalism. At the heart of this history are two questions which remain with us today: what can literature do? and for whom does it belong?

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We will begin the seminar by turning to Kafka's work. Guided by a selection of parables and stories, we will immerse ourselves in the intricacy of interpretation. How do we understand this world: of objects part-alive and bureaucratic mazes; of catastrophic events and narrative nonchalance? Along with Kafka, we will read his commentators - Benjamin, Adorno, and Arendt - dwelling upon their notions of beauty, failure, and hope.

In the second half of the seminar, we will follow Kafka to Palestine, gauging his ambivalence not only to religion and nationalism but also to literature itself. Considering Kafka's request to have all his papers burned, we will trace their fate as the literary property of a Jewish state. In doing so, we will ask how a piece of writing can make claims about justice, including its own right not to be owned.

Throughout the seminar, we will reflect on Kafka in the present. What does his work tell us about Zionism and settler-colonialism, about literature as a mode of resistance? In the context of contemporary society, how do we express communal heritage - whether linguistic, religious, or cultural - when it is claimed by the state? And if writing can ever be free of politics, can it also be free of another manipulation, that of the market? 

Tuition: 240 JDs. Scholarships are available to all those who cannot afford the full cost, regardless of age, nationality, or employment status. See the registration form for details.

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