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Franz Kafka and J. M. Coetzee

ENGL 640.401
crosslisted as: GRMN 540, COML 540
instructor(s):
Monday 3-5:00pm

This seminar will listen attentively to the echoes of Franz Kafka in the novels of J.M. Coetzee. Building on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of a minor literature, elaborated on the example of Kafka’s oeuvre, we will situate Kafka against the backdrop of the German-speaking Jewish community of Habsburg-era Prague and read Coetzee within the context of apartheid and his native South Africa. Beyond an investigation of empire and its aftermath, this course will consider the arguably posthuman ethics of these authors, examining them through the lens of animal studies and the environmental humanities in order to reveal how they anticipate and participate in current thinking on the Anthropocene. Reading Kafka’s fables beside Coetzee’s allegorical narratives, the seminar will follow the twisted course taken by literary justice from the Josef K. of Kafka’s Trial to Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K. Alongside these two towering figures, the influence of and affinities with other German-language authors (Heinrich von Kleist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Robert Walser) and Anglophone contemporaries (Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer, Cormac McCarthy) will also be considered. Other works to be read will include Kafka’s CastleIn the Penal Colony, Metamorphosis and late animal stories as well as Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country, Waiting for the Barbarians and Elizabeth Costello. Advanced undergraduates may enroll with the permission of the instructor. Readings and discussions in English.