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Beckett and Kafka

ENGL 259.401
crosslisted as: COML 140, GRMN 249
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30 am
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This class will be devoted to parallel readings of Beckett’s and Kafka’s major works. Beckett and Kafka are often lumped together: they would share a pessimistic view of life, be concerned with the absurd, and propagate a modern nihilism, with a hint of a negative theology underpinning all this. T. W. Adorno, for one, insisted on their proximity in spite of Beckett’s own resistance. Beckett seems to have put Kafka at a safe distance and criticized him for not being experimental enough. We will have to make sense of Adorno’s interpretation by looking at the play Endgame read alongside Kafka’s stories like “Hunter Gracchus.” Then, by focusing on major novels like Watt and The Castle, and The Unnamable and The Trial, and by comparing the techniques of short story and fragmentary writing, we will investigate Beckett’s and Kafka’s aesthetics. In the end, we will pose the question of whether a single critical discourse can encompass their works or whether different hermeneutics are required.

Requirements: one oral presentation and two papers (10 and 15 pages).