GER30220 Franz Kafka’s Strange World

Academic Year 2020/2021

Kafka’s stories and novels have fascinated generations of readers. His fiction has added the word ‘kafkaesque’ to the modern dictionary for the experience of a largely illegible world which is governed by obscure systems and abstract modern institutions. While Kafka’s protagonists are entrapped in modern bureaucratic systems and mechanisms of power they cannot control, his readers too share a sense of profound disorientation. A vast body of criticism concerns the question of how to read fictional worlds which overturn our conventional expectation of a stable and legible world systems. In this module we will explore Kafka’s fiction, from his short prose and short stories to his great novel Der Proceß, with a view to analysing what earned his works the label ‘kafkaesque’. As one critic puts it, Kafka’s work offers “a profoundly political vision of society and of individual subjectivity as sites of struggle in action as in thought”. Besides close readings and narratological analysis, we will focus on the following themes: law and justice; authority and agency; sexuality and gender roles; institutions and settings. We will also discuss modernism as a literary movement.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Write a coherent essay

Demonstrate critical understanding of key features of modernism

Critically engage with a variety of secondary sources and theoretical approaches to Kafka in the context of modern German literature

Critically reflect on representations of power, gender, institutions in kafka’s texts

Critically reflect on narratological issues in Kafka’s texts

Indicative Module Content:

In this module participants will read a selection of Kafka’s shorter prose writings and his novel Der Proceß. All texts will be read in German, a good reading knowledge (CEFR B2 ) is required.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Teaching will be delivered in two weekly online sessions in the virtual classroom. This module is taught in a seminar format. It requires active preparation (weekly reading of primary and secondary sources) and participation in virtual classroom activities. These include:
- small group discussions
- class presentations
- short lecturer online presentations
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: 2500-3000 word essay Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Assignment: Close reading Week 7 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students are invited to receive feedback during the design phase of this assessment and also receive written individual and group feedback after the assessment. Students are invited to submit a plan or a draft of the final essay prior to submission and will be given written and/or oral feedback on this to support them in producing the final draft. Submitted essays will receive post-assessment written feedback.

Mandatory Primary Texts:
Franz Kafka, Die Erzählungen und andere ausgewählte Prosa, ed. by Roger Hermes. Frankfurt a. M: Fischer TB, 2008.
ISBN-10: 3596132703; ISBN-13: 978-3596132706

Franz Kafka, Der Proceß. In der Fassung der Handschrift. Frankfurt a. Main: Fischer Klassik, 2011. ISBN-10: 3596903564; ISBN-13: 978-3596903566

Select Secondary Literature:

***Auerochs, Bernd and Manfred Engel (Eds): Kafka-Handbuch. Leben – Werk – Wirkung. Stuttgart/Weimar. Metzler, 2010.

*** Boa, Elizabeth, Kafka. Gender, Class and Race in the Letters and Fictions. Oxford 1996,
Check Shelves, 833 KAF/B, James Joyce, Short Loan Collection

*** Boa, Elizabeth Boa, ‘Losing the Plot: Kleist, Kafka and Disappearing Grand Narratives’. German Life & Letters 70 (2017), 137–54 ‘

*** Boa, Elizabeth, Kafka’s Auf der Galerie. A Resistant Reading. Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 1991(65): 486-501
Danta, Chris, ‘Kafka's Mousetrap: The Fable of the Dying Voice’. SubStance 37/117 (2008): 152-168.
Dodd, Bill (Ed.), Kafka. The Metamorphosis, the Trial and the Castle. London: Longman, 1995.

*** Duttlinger, Carolin (eds) : Franz Kafka in Context. Cambridge University Press 2018.
Book DUE 01-09-20, 833 kaf/d, James Joyce, General

*** Duttlinger, Carolin, The Cambridge Introduction to Franz Kafka. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013. Book Check Shelves, 833 KAF/D, James Joyce, General

*** Engel, Manfred and Ritchie Robertson (Hrsg.): Kafka und die kleine Prosa der Moderne / Kafka and Short Modernist Prose. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2010 (Oxford Kafka Studies I).

Feuerlicht, Ignace, ‘Kafka’s Chaplain’. German Quarterly 39 (1966): 208-220

*** Fuchs, Anne, ‘Modern Man and the Trouble with Time: Franz Kafka’s Der Proceß’. In: Anne Fuchs, Precarious Times. Temporality and History in Modern German Culture. Ithaca and New York: Cornell University Press 2019, pp. 88-95.

*** Fuchs, Anne, ‘Crises and Crisis Management in Kafka’s Kleine Fabel and Robert Walser’s Das Ende der Welt’. Modern Language Review 114 (2019): 804-818.

***Fuchs, Anne, Temporal Ambivalence in Kafka’s The Trial. Philosophical Perspectives In: Espen Hammer (ed.), Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018: 173--200.

*** Gross, Ruth V., ‘Of Mice and Women. Reflections on a Discourse in Kafka’s Josefine, die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse’, The Germanic Review 60 (1985), 56-68.

*** Hammer, Espen (ed.), Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018.

Horn, Simon, ‘Conic sections. Kafka’s Babel’. The Yearbook of Comparative Literature 63 (2017): 90-112.

*** Jahraus, Oliver, Kafka. Leben, Schreiben, Machtapparate. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2006
Book Check Shelves, 833 KAF/J, James Joyce, General

*** Jahraus, Oliver, ‘Die Interpretation der Türhüterlegende.” In: Jahraus, O.: Kafka: Leben, Schreiben, Machtapparate. Stuttgart; Reclam, 2006, pp. 307-315.

***Jahraus, Oliver and Stefan Neuhaus (Hrsg.): Kafkas „Urteil“ und die Literaturtheorie. Zehn Modellanalysen. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2002.

Lee Spahr, Blake, ‘Kafka’s “Auf der Galerie”: A stylistic Analysis’. The German Quarterly 33 (1960): 211-215.

Minden, Michael, Kafka’s Josefine die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse. German Life & Letters 62 (2009): 297-310.

Müller, Michael: Franz Kafka ‘Das Urteil’. Erläuterungen und Dokumente. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1995. Book Check Shelves, 833 KAF/M, James Joyce, General

*** Neumann, Gerhard, Franz Kafka. Das Urteil. Text, Materialien, Kommentar. Munich, Vienna: Hanser, 1981.
Check Shelves, 833 KAF/N, James Joyce, General

Pascal, Roy, Kafka’s Narrators: A Study of his Stories and Sketches. Cambridge: cambridge UP, 1982.
Book Check Shelves, 833 KAF/P, James Joyce, General

Politzer, Heinz, Franz Kafka: Parable and Paradox. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1966.

*** Preece, Julian (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kafka. Cambridge: Canbridge UP, 2002.
eBookFull Text Online
+1 More Book Check Shelves, 833 KAF/P, James Joyce, General

*** Robertson, Ritchie, ‘Von den ungerechten Richtern. Zum allegorischen Verfahren Kafkas im Proceß.’ In: Zimmermann, Hans-Dieter Nach erneuter Lektüre: Franz Kafkas Der Proceß. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1992, pp. 201-211.

*** Robertson, Ritchie Kafka: Judaism, Politics and Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP. 1985.
Book Check Shelves, 833 KAF/R, James Joyce, General

***Robertson, Ritchie, Kafka. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004.
eBookFull Text Online
+1 More Book Check Shelves, 833 KAF/R, James Joyce, General

Ruherford, Danilyn, ‘The Foreignness of Power: Alterity and Subversion in Kafka’s In the Penal Colony and Beyond’, Modernism/Modernity 8 (2001), 303-313.

***Stern, J.P., The Judgement – an Interpretation. The German Quarterly 45 (1972), pp. 114-129.

*** Stern, J.P., ‘Franz Kafka on Mice and Men’, in: J. P. Stern and J.J. White (eds), Paths and Labyrinths. Nine Papers from a Kafka Symposium. London: Institute of Germanic Studies, 1985, pp. 141-155.

Thiher, Allen, Understanding Franz Kafka. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press 2018.
eBookFull Text Online

von Jagow, Bettina and Oliver Jahraus, Kafka-Handbuch Leben-Werk-Wirkung. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht , 2008.

Zilcosky, John, Kafka's travels : exoticism, colonialism and the traffic of writing. Basingstoke, 2003.