Kafka in Prague

Course NameKafka in Prague
Course CodeLIT230
DescriptionFranz Kafka (1883–1924) has become recognized as one of the leading figures in world literature. Perhaps more than any other major author, Kafka is associated with one geographical location: the city of Prague. Kafka lived almost his whole life in Prague, especially on and around Old Town Square. However, Kafka’s works themselves are not explicitly about Prague, nor are they set in Prague. Prague and the Central European experience at the turn of the 20th century rather bubbles up through his fiction when you read and seriously consider his stories.
This course will focus therefore on Kafka’s fiction. Kafka the historical person will be considered as will the cultural and historical milieu of the time and place. These cultural and historical issues, however, extend beyond Kafka’s time and space of living since his work became famous after his death and after being translated into English and other languages. In addition, since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Kafka’s works are still undergoing a kind of renaissance and rediscovery in today’s Prague. Obviously, reading and thinking about Kafka’s fiction while resident in Prague is a unique opportunity and experience. So, the course considers “Kafka in Prague” in many different ways. The works that will be read in the course are organized in a chronological manner, along with relevant critical material for each work. However, less time-bound thematic issues will also be addressed in a less linear fashion, such as the cultural and historical interaction with the fiction, Kafka’s development as a writer, the impact of Kafka’s biographical story on his stories, Kafka’s use of animal characters, and the narrative innovations that Kafka implemented. The course will focus on a selection from Kafka’s many well-known short stories and one of his three novels. Kafka’s works will be studied in English translation; they were originally written in German.
Learning OutcomesUpon completion of this course, students will be able to:
– Understand the story line and the main issues of each story/novel on the syllabus;
– Understand the main idea of at least one critical article on each story or novel on the syllabus;
– Understand the intersection of German, Jewish, and Czech identities in Prague in the early 20th century;
– Understand Franz Kafka’s biography and how his lived life impacts his fiction;
– Understand how Franz Kafka developed as a writer of fiction over the course of his short life;
– Understand the types of narrative innovation that Franz Kafka implemented, and the effect these innovations have on his stories;
– Write an effective literary analysis essay;
– Prepare and deliver an effective in-class presentation;
– Effectively participate in class discussions on literature and literary criticism;
– Know different ways of thinking about literature, culture, and literary analysis;
– Articulate how Kafka’s writing is connected to his historical and cultural context.
SchoolSchool of Humanities & Social Sciences
Number of credits (US / ECTS)3 US / 6 ECTS