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Kafka as A Madman

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So we will go to the psychoanalytic part, so this is yet another huge area where we can see Kafka’s creativity in work. So so as we can as we have just seen so Hoffman's idea of the double is usually seen in say satire of early English writing and also the doubles a manifestation of the unconscious mind is also very important. So there will be two people in the story who say two sides of one person. So, for example, The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde is one example of the double coming, so two characters who are a manifestation of a single mind and this two might be these two characters might be very different and if you try to read these two characters together we get an idea about the single mind which gives rise to that character. So in metamorphosis, we can see that Gregor and Grete are kind of a double in one sense. So a tortured mind which tries to escape its social constraints into another mode of being human and Grete who is more or less adjusted with this existence social existence but yet are trying to have a very trying to be much more sympathetic to Gregor in her attitudes towards him, so that is a very curious point for discussion and the reality fantasy mix in metamorphosis. So metamorphosis is said to let us say that it reminds us of magical realism for example. So if one asks whether the realm of reality the realm of fiction lies in reality or fantasy. So this division between reality and fantasy is a permanent permanently reoccurring idea in fiction. So let us see how we can show we can come into terms with the reality versus fantasy debate using metamorphosis. So it is said that we can see that in many works of literary criticism the emergence of the unconscious is not possible with the real world as we see it because the real world is usually manifested to the conscious mind and the emergence of something which has been repressed the unconscious cannot happen in a realist setting. So Kafka introduces so many unrealistic things for example of the main premise of this plot, the metamorphosis of a human into something non-human and human at the same time for which is completely unthinkable for a rational conscious mind. So this mix of reality and fantasy gives the unconscious to manifest itself in many modes so, for example, the metamorphosis is the metamorphosis the action is an example of that and the setting of the work is a deliberate mix of reality and fantasy so that the author can reach out to the audience through his through the workings of his unconscious, so that is a really interesting part and the return of the repressed is also another important theme we have because when we speak about Kafka it is also the connotation is of Kafkaesque which is usually described as nightmarish, so why is it called as nightmarish but not exactly something says illogical or unreal? Because nightmarish is more close to one’s consciousness because it does not have any constraint and the anxieties which have built-in built into one's unconscious usually returns as the as in so many forms of one which can be thought as the metamorphosis. And there is also a class critique which will be not discussing much because so let us say that Samsa’s the economic provider for the family and his life as life and his humanity is connected to his job in one sense because his being human is mainly as being the economic provider for the family, so the power relations with his family and other members of the family are also very interesting to read through and his need for autonomy to escape this field of bureaucracy, modernity, etc etc and his and his power relations with the other now earning members of the family so this is also a very rich point for further interpretation. (Refer Slide Time: 26:14) So general themes so these terms which we have here are very loaded only and only trying to connect the echoes of Kafka's work will help us have some will help us make some sense of the general theme, so modernity, existence and human identity will be three major things which we will be talking about. So in the modern time what the social structure and the kind of ways in which the society interacts with the individual are usually through the bureaucratic setting. So this iron cage of bureaucracy which is what Weber calls it is and is a kind of rationalization of social life. So you treat individuals as cogs in a machine which can be replaced as on when needed is a strong mirror of modernity. So this loss of identity autonomy is linked into the specialization of labour and for example, we can read Poseidon which is yet another very short work by Kafka which tells us the story of just the god of the seas who is who cannot escape his work table where he calculates the figures and everything, etc etc so this is one of one point of analyzing this Kafka and alienation. So bureaucracy and the use of human for specific needs which we have just seen it is very interesting. So when you try to read it with say example I have taken the Adorno and Horkheimer so these two are critics social critics who wrote a book called the enlightenment who wrote a wonderful book called dialectic of enlightenment where they give us an idea of how the use of humans as of the replacing of God with reason and the supreme rule of reason has led us to what Kafka had experienced. So so constructing a human identity is one of those themes in this work and you have to relate it to whatever you can read like modernity existence and identity. So if you try to relate the human identity to these process which happened and look at the relations it gives us a very rich insight into Kafka’s works and anxiety of being, so a little fable which we will read now what it means to be human and what is an essence which gives us an idea of what it means to be human, so these anxieties are also important and the and the relation between an artist and the mediocre world is also again another point of discussion, you can if you want to read metamorphosis as an artist trying to escape the mediocre world this is also and that such a reading is also very interesting. For example, we can look at The Hunger artist for a Hunger Artist by Kafka as an example. So the entire kind of analysis which we have tried to do is very Eurocentric because the audience to which we are trying to think and explain the story in terms of the analysis which we have just read now is very time and space constructed so such analysis will make sense only if we have lived through all those eras of modernity and bureaucratization but which will not be a problem for us because our experiences are more standardized or over space and time and so this is very relatable to us so that is the point. (Refer Slide Time: 30:35) So this is a little fable which you can read from the screen and it gives you an idea of how Kafka’s works share a lot of these general themes which we have just talked about. (Refer Slide Time: 30:51) And so minor literature is another very interesting concept with which we can understand Kafka, so Kafka towards minor literature is a text which has been published by I mean written by Deleuze and Guattari who are philosophers is a philosopher and psychoanalyst so better known to literature and academia and literate in literature through their work Anti-Oedipus so it is a postmodern reading of the text because as we will see. So Kafka was writing in German in Prague and he was Jewish, so these three identities are a minority figure in a huge Non-German speaking setting. So so this minor literature is not in the sense of that minority language and minority identity but more on the lines of it is not preoccupied with giving us a certain meaning and the familiarity to the text. So he is trying to make it strange the experience strange to us. So it is not the minority of a minority language but the language which he uses German has deterritorialized this word of deterritorialisation is used by Deleuze and Guastart in their work. So he takes the language out of its political context and just by doing such a work it gives the language another political immediacy to yet another political immediacy to another way of thinking. So it is kind of rerouting, it is kind of taking the work away from its context and reading so so reading it. So it is a quote from Deleuze and Guattari. Revolutionary conditions for every literature within the heart of which is called great or established literature that is how they classify Kafka into their way of reading the text, so Kafka gave us a new style of writing. So it is Urban Grotesque with an existential attitude which till now is has been non-existent, but with Kafka he there is a germ of a new style of writing and a new way of thinking which Kafka gives us. So this is how the minor literature concept is explained. So this is again a very postmodern reading because it does not try to read it concerning structuralist understandings of how these things work but try to uproot the things and give us a very new way of looking into it. (Refer Slide Time: 34:00) And tradition and Kafka's event is yet another interesting example which I recently discovered. So Slavoj Zizek a contemporary thinker on the event. So the event is considered as an effect of so many courses but the duty in this event is that the courses, although they exist, are only the courses although a although they exist only comes into picture when the effect comes into the picture. So the effect defines the cause, so it is retroactive so he gives us an example of an event with Kafka. So when we think of Kafka the entire lineage the entire tradition which we associate with him from Hoffman to Gogol and Dostoevsky comes into the picture as a trend only when Kafka arrives. So with Kafka’s writing, we can then go back in time and make sense of the causes, so this is a very interesting way of thinking about how Kafka comes into the picture. So this again has a huge connection into literary tradition and literary canon which in turn uses new avenues of thinking about world literature, so that is another important and interesting area and again Zizek in one of his films the pervert’s get to ideology says that the state bureaucracy is the only remaining contact closest to divine to a modern secular man, so he is referring to Kafka again that the divine has been replaced with rationality and bureaucracy is one manifestation of rationality so this is yet another equally important and interesting analysis. (Refer Slide Time: 36:00) And the funniness of Kafka is again a new emergence, so it one of those most beautiful expressions of this comes with David Foster Wallace’s article in Harper's Magazine which is available online it’s called laughing with Kafka. So so Foster Wallace is trying to give us an idea about how Kafka is funny. So to concretize Foster Wallace’s argument we can refer back to Kafka’s diaries and letters where we can see that Kafka was very interested in reading out his works and laughing with people. So so the main key point is at the horrific struggle to establish a human self-results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. So it is a kind of gallows humour which is subtle but very prominent. So if you say the little fable in such a light it becomes very very funny in a particular sense. So there is too much irony and exaggeration which Kafka puts into his works which turn his bleak world into something more interesting. So it is a kind of funniness which is not the usual funniness but which is more black. (Refer Slide Time: 37:28) This is as a point of closing this discussion so Vladimir Nabokov's lectures on Kafka which is again available online is really interesting because in that Nabokov gives us an example of how the reality fantasy complex works. So if you take what is if you ask what is real to somebody they will give you one explanation. So for if you consider so many people and mix their definitions we get a worldview which is very close to Kafka that is what he argues in his lecture. So so he is also against the intellectualization of Kafka’s work so as we see there are so many attempts at running Kafka through the academic machine which gives us so many interpretations but Nabokov and says Milan Kundera, for example, they have commented on how Kafka’s works become interesting and readable only when you try to read the work for the work’s sake itself. So that is another interesting discussion with which we can end the session. So so basically what we have tried here what we try is to read the specific themes of metamorphosis in connection to the larger picture of Kafka with his time and with his historical place in the tradition and try to take a look at certain individual points and try to weave a connection, weave a web of connections which head. So it is by looking at these connections which we can better understand why Kafka has been placed in world literature as a major pillar of yeah of literature so yeah. So to understand this discussion in more light it is easy and quite beautiful if you try to look at these individual points and try to get a holistic understanding of how these relations work. So I hope this explanation of Kafka makes sense and gives you a point of departure from where you can look at these things and try to imagine why he is in the place where he is now, so thank you. Hello everyone, welcome to today’s session of the NPTEL course titled introduction to world literature. Today I would like to introduce to you the text, the short story “diary of a madman” written by Nikolai Gogol. Gogol was a Ukrainian writer, he wrote in Russian and his works are being translated into different languages including English. It is said that Gogol is one of the first writers who acquired an international celebrity status from among the Russian writers. He is also said to be a very influential literary artist of his times who also laid the foundations of Russian realism. So many of the prominent Russian writers that we know of today they all had been immensely influenced by Gogol and in that sense, it is very apt to consider Gogol as one of the starting points of modern Russian literature. And diary of a madman is one of his best-told stories among the other very prominent ones such as the overcoat, the nose this work was published in 1835. Though this is almost 2 centuries old now we continue to see that there is relevance with which the text continues to be discussed especially within the context of world literature. And there is a certain universality about most of Gogol stories and diary of a madman is one such typical ones where we both get a sense of how the Russian bureaucracy works and we also get a sense of how certain universal emotions which are part of the bureaucratic frustrations that have also been portrait very in an almost perfect manner. Diary of a madman as the title implies, it is in the form of diary entries, diary maintained by protagonist Poprishchin and this is a diary which he interestingly maintains for himself and this is not meant for public reading as we would figure out as in when progress through the short story. (Refer Slide Time:2:05) This is written in the form of different entries based on dates the first one being October 3rd. And the way he dates these occurrences that also gives us the sense into this man’s this protagonist’s state of mind. So if we try to summarize this in a single line this could be said as the story about a man who gradually descends into complete madness. So we get a sense of the progression of his insanity when we look at how he dates his entries among many other things and there is a section towards the end when he enters the year as the year 2000 and the date as April 43rd and so by then we get a sense that he has lost all comprehensions of time there is no true sense of time within which he positions himself and that the descent into madness is almost complete. (Refer Slide Time:3:04) Right at the outset, I also read some excerpts for you from that. We get a sense of who this protagonist is. The diary of a madman October 3. A strange occurrence has taken place today. I got up fairly late, and when Mawra brought me my clean boots, I asked her how late it was. When I heard it had long struck then, I dressed as quickly as possible. To tell the truth, I would rather not have gone to the office at all today. I know beforehand that our Department-chief will look as sour as vinegar. For some time past he has been in the habit of saying to me, “Look here, my friend, there is something wrong with your head. You often rush about as though you were possessed. Then you make such confused abstracts of the document that the Devil himself cannot take them out, you write the title without any capital letters and add neither the date nor the document number”. The long-legged scoundrel he is certainly envious of me because I sit in the director’s workroom and mend his Excellency’s pens. In a word, I should not have gone to the office if I had not hoped to meet the accountant, and perhaps squeeze a little advance out of this skinflint. A terrible man this accountant. As for his advancing one’s salary once in a way-you might sooner expect the skies to fall. You may beg and beseech him, and be on the verge of ruin-this grey devil won’t budge an inch. At the same time his cook at home, as all the world knows, boxes his ears. I don’t see what good one gets by serving in our department. There are no plums there. In the fiscal and judicial offices, it is quite different. There some ungainly fellow sits in a corner and writes and writes, he has such a shabby and such an ugly mug that one would like to spit on both of them. But you should see what a splendid country house he has rented. He would not condescend to accept a gilt porcelain cup as a present. You can give that to your family doctor “he would say. Nothing less than a pair of chestnut horses, a fine carriage or a beaver fur coat worth 3000 rubles would be good enough for him. And yet he seems so mild and quiet and asks so amiably please lend me your penknife, I wish to mend my pen. Nevertheless, he knows how to scarify a petitioner until he has hardly a whole stitch left on his body. So we begin to get a drift of this short story right at the outset. Here is a protagonist whose name we will get to know later Poprishchin who is highly dissatisfied with the kind of job that he is doing. He does not seem to be eager to leave for work and he is very dissatisfied he is pretty much disgruntled about everything at work and we find that he continues to exhibit the sense of paranoia throughout this short story and his descent into madness is also very vigorously intertwined with the bureaucratic systems within which he is caught. (Refer Slide Time:5:54) So we come across a range of frustrating incidents and also humiliations that this protagonist is receiving from his authorities higher up. And there is a sense of vengeance that he begins to develop against the world and there are 2 ways in which he tries to vent his anger, one at his workplace by writing out the documents and secondly by writing out this diary to himself. And we get access to this diary and we also get a sense of what’s happening inside his mind. One is not too sure about the veracity of the incidents that are being recorded, for instance, he talks about the dog and the letters written by a dog which also had to be destroyed for practical reasons. But we also get a sense that part of the things that he gets to narrate in that diary could also be fictional, it could be purely a figment of his imagination. But what we are certain about is a state of mind which is continually deteriorating in terms of descent into madness and by the time the story ends we get to know that he has been driven completely insane. And what drives him insane is the bureaucratic system, the frustrations of being caught within a system out of which he cannot come out. And the focus of the story rather than being a social critique rather than being a moral commentary on the ethics of workspace or the relationship between the person and his workspace is more psychological. It also needs to be noticed that amongst Gogol’s work this is the one which is written in the first-person narrative. It also gives us a sense of very personal details, very intimate details about the protagonist’s state of mind. If this one emotion which we find rather static from the beginning till the end of this story that Poprishchin the protagonist is angry, he is frustrated with the world. He thinks that the world has done him wrong and he also thinks that everything around him, every human being around him, every system within which he is placed they are all there to insult him, to injure him and he is unable to get out of this paranoia. And he sees himself increasingly as a victim from the beginning and he is also seeing himself as someone who is suffering in the hands of this cruel world. And to all of this, he can only respond with a vengeance which is all pent up within him. Look at the various ways in which he responds to these people who are around him. For instance, the section chief is reduced to something less than a human being, this is how the section chief is described he has a face like a druggist’s bottle and he is also called a damned heron. And the cashier, on the other hand, is attacked with rumour which we still do not know whether it is true or not. The madman Poprishchin who is the protagonist, he reports that at home his cook beats him and everybody knows it. And even a sense of humour we find it is very very aggressive and his only enjoyment in life we get to know is that from the theatre. He goes to watch plays and he laughs at these amusing plays that he goes to watch and there he also finds that the others make chats with lawyers, Collegiate registrars, merchants and journalists and this is the kind of thing that he wants to do as well because he is very unhappy with the systems within which he is placed and he wouldn’t miss a chance to laugh at them. But he’s also caught in this vicious circle of paranoia. And he blames his feelings of frustration on others and he sees threats everywhere even when there is none and as we saw in that excerpt in the first entry on October 3. Even when he wakes up that’s a first thought that comes to his mind whether he should go to his office or not he would rather not go had it not been for the advance that he wanted to get from the cashier. So he wakes up with this paranoia, wakes up with this negativity that things are bound to go wrong that he is going to be insulted and humiliated at his workplace. And underneath this paranoia and underneath this aggression which often is very very passive too, we find that there is intense envy intense jealousy, he is always coveting some possession of power and therein lies the irony of the whole situation. While he finds himself being bogged down by various figures of authority, While he sees himself as a victim of this bureaucratic hierarchy, he also wishes to be at the top, he also wishes to be in that position from where he can dominate others. And this feeling of the superiority which he thinks authority will automatically bring to him, he is Contiy coveting that. Which is why towards the end he begins to see himself as the King of Spain which gives him an ultimate sense of authority, the ultimate sense of superiority and throughout the story we find that this man who is gradually but very steadily descending into madness he is always craving for a sense of dignity, for a sense of authority and this incidentally is also accompanied by a compensatory fantasy of dignity and authority. (Refer Slide Time: 11:11) So halfway through the story, we begin to see as he also descends into a madness that there are a lot of fantasies that he begins to indulge himself in. And the diary entries they also become more and more problematic as it becomes harder to differentiate between the real things that he is going through and the things that he is fantasizing. But that said right at the beginning the sense of paranoia which gets conveyed through these various entries it also tells us about the innate element of insanity that the protagonist always already had. And in the beginning and even in the first entry which is from October 3 when he assumes that the others are jealous of him because he is working with the director. We find a sense of awe a sense appreciation for the director and he begins to covet that sort of a position thinking that things would get better when he is higher up in this ladder of hierarchy. When he has a sense of authority which he can use on the others who are below him. And there it seamlessness with which he reads news reports and he also superimposes those incidents which happen in different parts of the world into his own life for instance when he reads this news about the vacant Spanish throne he begins to assume that he has transformed into the King of Spain. And here is where we find real historical and political incidents becoming intertwine with the personal fantasies and that also accelerates his descent into madness. And in solving what he sees as a political problem by transforming himself into the King of Spain and thereby occupying that vacant position of the throne, he also solves his crisis at least momentarily in his mind he assumes this powerful position which is that of the King of Spain and he gets a sense of authority, a sense of superiority which temporarily he feels will also solve the problem. And while the reader can see through the paranoia and his descent into complete madness we find that at a personal level it is also very very gratifying for Poprishchin. And there is an imagined love quest alongside with this. He is in real-life presented as someone who has hardly any appeal in terms of his love relations. But when he is beginning to imagine a sense of authority and a sense of superiority which these elements of fantasy also bring into his life. There is an imaginary love quest that he begins to pursue as well and he in his mind, in his fantasies he becomes knight errant in search of his beloved and Sophie one of the other characters is also idealized over here.