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The Confrontation of a Man

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Now we will have a brief look at Kafka’s biography because it is important to understand how Kafka lived and the context in which Kafka lived to supplement whatever the text alone offers us. So it is going to be a mix of both the text and the context which will be useful for us in understanding Kafka. So he was born in Prague in the Kingdom of Bohemia Austrian Hungary in 1883 and he has born into a German-speaking Jewish family. This is of importance to us which we will understand when we talk about it later. So the German-speaking Jewish family is of importance to us. And also the year of birth we should notice it is 1883 and he lived till 1924, so this period is also of importance to us because to place the story in a context and to understand the consciousness of the author working into manufacturing such a story becomes clear only when we see the period in which he was located. So 1883 to 1924 is the modern age as in it is part of the modern age and so we should take note of the age and also his identity as a German-speaking Jew living in Prague which is not a German-speaking place. So just to give you an idea of how Kafka is usually looked at by literary figures, we have a quote from Vladimir Nabokov. So Vladimir Nabokov has had so many opinions on so many people, so it’s very interesting to note what he has to say about Kafka. So Kafka says such poets as Rilke or such novelists as Thomas Mann are dwarfs or plaster saints in comparison to him. Him, he is Kafka and we should see who are these figures which Nabokov is referring to. So Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke and Thomas Mann who are kind of literary stalwarts in the Canon. He is comparing them to Kafka as dwarfs. So most probably means something and where do we place Kafka? 20th-century modernism. So 20th-century modernism as we have seen from 1883 to 1924, so these 3 words here 20thcentury modernism, so this is quite important in understanding Kafka because 20th entry modernism means a lot as in, modernism entails so many moments which happened and it is an entire worldview in which we are trying to place Kafka. So it is important to keep in mind the connotations these words have as in modernism. So we can see here that we have associated a few words with modernism, say existentialism, bureaucracy, alienation. So these are those buzzwords which everybody knows about existentialism an important moment in philosophy which also bled into literature. Bureaucracy, bureaucracy the connotations go into multiple disciplines, so sociology for example and alienation, alienation happening due to the modernist trends or alienation happening due to the modern age is also another buzzword which we see in Marxist literary criticism and so on. So how can we take these things into account while reading Kafka, see what the text gives us and also to see, how this entire ideological enterprise which manufactured text work through Kafka. So Kafka’s works have also given us a new word Kafkaesque which refers to the moods which Kafka usually gives us through his works. So this is also of importance to us which we will discuss later. And his work as in his profession, so Kafka worked as an insurance claims adjuster in Bohemia and this piece of information will also be of much importance to us. And another thing which all Kafka scholars talk about is Kafka’s sexuality. So this is also an important point which we should take into consideration because as we know so many figures for example Freud and so on let us talk about the roles sexuality plays in human culture. So Kafka’s sexuality and his attitudes towards the same is of importance to us because it comes out in certain ways in his texts as symbols or as instances or as specific scenes. So once we understand how Kafka’s views on sexuality were linked to the internal workings of his consciousness, it gives us a sense of the author and the author’s consciousness working in his literary constructs as if the consciousness of the author is also manifesting itself as a literary form. So this is also of importance to us and we will discuss it later and his self-image, so that is also linked to Kafka sexuality. So how he viewed himself about the society is also very interesting because as we see in his other works, so let’s say “a hunger artist” and so on we get an idea of how Kafka viewed himself about the world. So again this goes back into Kafka’s sexuality as in we are not going to discuss his preferences or anything. But we will be looking into how a sense of in advocacy has crept into Kafka’s works because that will give us insights into how Kafka’s insights into how metamorphosis works as a text. The influence of his father, this yet another huge key point which all Kafka scholars again speaks a lot about because there is a father figure in metamorphosis who is very controlling and very authoritative and we also have to look at the influence of Kafka’s father in his life because that will also give us deeper insights into Kafka’s literary productions especially Metamorphosis because there is a huge authoritative father figure in metamorphosis whom we should analyze a little bit. So these biographical details including Kafka’s times, the times in which Kafka lived and his identity and including his sexuality and self-image and profession and also influence of his family on him these things will be of great interest to us as we move along. (Refer Slide Time 24:58) Now we will take a look of the themes which we can see in metamorphosis, so for ease of understanding I have classified the themes into 3, one, the first classification is a specific theme and a 2nd category is the general themes and a 3rd category is what influential figures in literary circles and Academia has brought about Kafka. The specific themes which I have enlisted here is a huge mix of a different understanding of metamorphosis. So this is specific to metamorphosis while the 2nd part which is the general themes are not specific to metamorphosis but appear in metamorphosis and is also seen across most of the modernist writings. So say modernity and influences of modernity and how humans shape their identity, their search for identity and existence, so huge words but very meaningful too. So that is the 2nd part in the 3rd category which is neither specific nor general but contemporary writers and thinkers have spoken about Kafka and his works. So now we are going to go about discussing metamorphosis is by starting with the specific themes then trying to place these specific themes along with a wider understanding using a few general themes and then we try to understand some interesting but very relevant insights into Kafka’s writing. So we will start with a bit of biographical interpretation and a bit of feminist literary criticism and textual understanding and of course psychoanalytic understandings and then maybe a little bit of class critique and that’s how we will go about with this. (Refer Slide Time: 27:17) So let’s start with the specific thing. So now this is very interesting because whatever we know about Kafka in his biography comes into play with the text. So let’s go through the biographical part first. So his father figure, so as we saw earlier we already spoke about his father being an authoritative figure in his life and how it must have to lead him to his literary productions. So let’s see, Kafka wrote 20 pages odd letter to his father, so he published a letter to his father and it gives us very interesting insights into how Kafka’s consciousness had placed his father. So the father figure which we see a metamorphosis is very close to his biological father, Kafka’s biological father called, his name was Hermann Kafka. So there are specific details which are of interest to us. So for example see that his father had called Kafka as a vermin. So which we see transforms into metamorphosis as a monstrous vermin and rebellion against father is another main theme here. So Kafka was not a rebel in the lazy man’s sense of a term because we don’t see details in his biography where he had actively opposed his father but there is always a sense of inadequacy in Kafka about his father. So we see that there is a kind of real loyalty of Kafka with his father in his real-life. So that kind of bleeds into metamorphosis too because we see that Samsa is afraid of his father this must have bled into his literary productions because we see in a metamorphosis that the father figure while being very authoritative and cruel to Samsa. In Samsa’s mind, the father is always a winner figure, he is placed in a pedestal not to be touched, not be opposed, so this also is very tightly related to a psychoanalytic understanding of metamorphosis but we see that the father figure has played a lot of influence in his real-life and it has bled into how he wrote metamorphosis and how we understand metamorphosis. Professional life is also very important. So Kafka’s professional life was France clerk in a huge firm. And Kafka was not very impressed with his work because he always thought, we can see from his letters and diaries that he always had a problem adapting into his work life as in, as we can easily see from his letters and diaries Kafka always had a problem adjusting to his professional life because he thought that his professional life is thieving from himself the time he could have invested writing. So there is that issue and also the profession is very interesting because as a clerk this is removed from any active process of producing something. He is a clerk is a cog in a machine who is easily exchangeable as in the clerk does not have a face, it is faceless because if not for Kafka somebody else could have been in his place, so there is always a feeling of being nothing here. So we can extend that as an example of alienation in modern ages. So the professional life is also very much importance and the profession again is of importance because the clerk is a cog in a huge system called bureaucracy, so bureaucracy is tightly linked into modernity is again tightly linked into rationalization and treating people as expendable and also as replaceable. So there is a link between the historical time and Kafka, so we can see that in work here. And sexuality so it’s inadequacy concerning his father is also seen as a very big manifestation of his internal turmoil because the father is a very authoritative figure in whose possession is Kafka's mother is, so Kafka's father so one can easily see where this is going because Kafka's father is an authoritative figure who has in his possession the mother and there is always a sense of inadequacy that Kafka feels which also can be seen can be read in. Now we will take a look into the biographical details concerning sexuality. So it is usually said that it is usually seen in works relating to Kafka that Kafka was very interested in pornography and had so many relationships and so on but and when to read with his reduced self-esteem and when made a connection to his work and his time, etc we get a very interesting picture with which we can associate the work and it is an interesting point of discussion because we see that he always had a feeling of inadequacy concerning his father was an authoritative figure who also possessed his mother so that is an important point to discuss and also the apple. So the Apple which lodges in Kafka's the Apple which lodges in Samsa’s behind which is thrown by his father is also very interesting to read. So the Apple is always a symbol of sin, so the Apple which his father throws at him is almost as if the authoritative father who has in possession Kafka's or Samsa’s mother he is throwing something which is deeply suggestive of sin into Samsa's back into Samsa's behind which more or fewer functions as a turning point in his life because after the apple gets lodged in his behind he loses so many of his biological functions and that eventually turns into that causes some suspect so that is an important and interesting point to read, so when you connect his sexuality with the symbols in his text and his biography it forms an interesting web of connections which if you think about becomes more one more and more interesting. And the other point which is usually made in all Kafka related works is his religiosity so this is another interesting point because if we want to we can read into so many more motifs which are available in his text. So Jewish Folklore and reading of Kafka as a Jewish as and the reading of Kafka's dealing with so much of Jewish mysticism is also very important so his one of his close associates is also said to have influenced and introduced Kafka into most of the Jewish Folklore and mysticism so that is also an important point which we usually see across Kafka Literature. So, we also see that it also has Christian interpretations such as Samsa as Samson saving the chosen people or Samsa as Samsara and this connecting it into eastern philosophies and eastern religious traditions. So that is also important but when you look at it, it almost looks as if it is overextended and an ungodly amount of over reading has been done but it is again a point of departure for most of Kafka scholar so that is also included. And yes, of course, he has left us a lot of his manuscripts and diaries and letters so so many diaries and letters to his partners like letters to Milena, for example, his letter to his father so these are also published and is of interest to people who want to read into Kafka. And another thing which we have is his manuscripts so since Max Broad who was a close friend of Kafka had not burned the manuscripts of Kafka has as Kafka had requested to him because of Max Broad who preserved Kafka's manuscripts and most of his written but unpublished material even though Kafka had requested Broad to burn all those because of him we have his manuscript revisions also available which is another interesting point of entry into Kafka's work. So for example, if you read if you try to look into Kafka's revised manuscripts we can see where he made his editorial choices because some in some senses we can see that he might have he has turned for example his into its so that there is a movement from a subjective human mind into something like it as an object. So if you try to connect it with his time, modernity, etc this part is also interesting. So it is more like we are trying to take the context and the text together this is also very important and equally interesting. So another and very usually seen the way of reading Kafka is through a feminist lens so maybe if you are interested you can look into it the most one of the most famous authors who have worked with a feminist understanding of Kafka is Nina Pelikan Straus and her essays are interesting to read. So most of those works on feminist criticism of Kafka usually it takes in case of metamorphosis usually takes Samsa’s sister has a subtextual theme which runs through the entire work and they also said and they also say as we have already noted that the metamorphosis is not just the metamorphosis of Samsa into a beetle but also of Grete into a mature young lady. So so trying to find a closure to this story concerning circumneutral evidence such as the title metamorphosis can be argued to work in another way when you take the element of a female presence in the story this is also one way of seeing Kafka's works especially metamorphosis. And when we go to textual criticism this opens up an entirely different in the world for us this opens up an entirely different world for us because there is this literalization of metaphor which happens, when we take into consideration that textual analysis it is very interesting and opens up an entirely different worldview for us. After all, the literalization of metaphor and the symbolism and placing the textual tradition uses an entirely different but not contradicting view of Kafka. So let us start with the literalization of metaphor which is discussed by Stanley Cohen Claude, so Stanley Cohen Claude is another figure who is very much well known in Kafka circles and usually seen as and usually seen in most of the collections of Kafka's of literary interpretations of Kafka. So literalization of metaphor is interesting because metaphor is fundamentally a lie. After all, metaphor is it is taking two things together and trying to tell us a more or less universal truth by giving us a lie and part Stanley Cohen Claude usually argues in his works is that Samsa’s metamorphosis into a dung beetle is a metaphor which is disrupted by Kafka into a great extent that that we can see that this metaphor is kind of attacked upon because it is not a complete metaphor and is not and has not come to a closure. So how this literalization work is by transforming the character Samsa into a beetle which is not entirely a beetle but still a human. So Nabokov in his lectures on Kafka notes this part because Nabokov was so Nabokov apart from being an author was also very interested in insects and butterflies and that and so on. So Nabokov makes this interesting makes an interesting insight into the beetle because in the text it is said that the beetle cannot close its eyes. So Nabokov says that it is a beetle but with human eyes and here we can see the metaphor getting distorted because the beetle is still human but it is also not human at the same time. So the beetle has human emotions, human thoughts which are slowly transforming and dimming but it still is human, but is it in a human form? So we see that the humaneness is lost in some sense but it is not lost in some sense. So this mixing of the metaphor the tenor and the vehicle is interesting here and the symbolism is also very interesting. So I have picked up a few elements from the text to explain the symbolism. So, for example, let us take the figure 3 so this is again from Nabokov’s lecture on Kafka so in metamorphosis we have three people in Samsa’s family excluding him and three doors and three lodges and the figure 3 is very interesting because it has many religious connotations in most religious traditions and as Nabokov says 3 can be also linked into the process of creation itself as in thesis, antithesis and synthesis. So that is important and it is an interesting read and you can also see that there are 3 parts for the text, there are 3 parts in the text part 1, 2 and 3 which can be read as a triptych which is a form of art which has 3 panels and the 3 panels describe events or it can be also thought of as a 3 act play, so this is also interesting but might look like as if we are throwing an ungodly amount of extra reading into the work. But again this is a usually live point of discussion in Kafka's literature, so that is then we have the Apple a symbol of the sin of the father-mother sexual relations which to the child is somewhere is a sphere which should not be peeped into and is a form is a place of so much of political tensions that is and another important figure. Then the sleep so when Samsa awakes from uneasy sleep so that is also very very interesting as in sleep is one of those activities where high, so this is also very interesting because sleep is one of those activities where our essential human activities the consciousness of humans are kind of suspended and in sleep, there is no difference between person 1, person 2 and person 3. So when you awake from sleep it is an entire transformation in itself from maybe we can call what we can call as lifeless person 1, person 2, person 3 into Samsa, Samsa’s father, Samsa’s mother, etc etc. So sleep and uneasy dreams etc can also be related to what Kafka tries to tell us through his story. And another very interesting part is about the tradition, so the tradition is very important in making of a literary canon, so we have essays like Eliot's Tradition and Individual talent etc which discusses the process of literary creation itself so this is very interesting. So we have so many essays which seek the tradition in which Kafka can be placed and usually for letting us say explanations sake ltake Kafka as practising the form of Urban Grotesque novel or the Urban Grotesque work. So in this way, we can see that many many literary scholars have interpreted Kafka to be following a line from Hoffman was a part of German Romanticism to Gogol and then to Dostoevsky and maybe Gustave Flaubert or so. So the first three figures are very interesting so Hoffman and Gogol these two figures are interesting because when we read Hoffman we get a sense of the artist is a social persona in his social setting who interacts with people as in an everyday sense but in his own private sphere we see that there is a sort of a tortured artist archetype emerging. So this duality between two people two forms of life is seen in Hofmann and when it goes to Gogol we see that Gogol who himself was part of a bureaucratic system in his professional life, we see that the Hoffman's imagination of these two things coming together has a new addition to it with Gogol’s introduction of a clerk inside. So for example when we see Gogol’s Overcoat for example we see that there is this element of the bureaucratic system trying to intrude into the text and give it yet another angle with which it can be understood and when it gets to the Dostoevsky we see that the mix of Hoffman and Gogol gets a new setting of the Urban. So this is how we can actually try to figure out how the tradition in which Kafka fits comes into being. So we see a kind of snowball being formed from adding a few pieces of information to it. So the tradition is also a very important thing very important term here and tradition in concerning weltliteratur and literary canon is a hotbed of so many connotations which trail behind it. For example the politics of canon building and how we can actually play somebody in a tradition indicator so this also gives rise to many many interesting points of discussion.