Typically, the historical range and diversity of Kafka-criticism expresses itself in undergraduate courses as an index of the readerly qualities of some paradigmatic Kafka-text. The evidence of competing interpretations, such thinking goes, reflects the construction of a reader on the margins of narration who serves to disrupt, disperse, and finally replace the authorial voice. To paraphrase Roland Barthes, Kafka dies as an author, enabling a Kafka-reader to survive within a polyphonic voice that can be heard in the cacophony of the critical-family K.
I devised the following exercise for my students to help them experience (on their own bodies) this transformation of writerly desire into the pleasure of reading. My hope was to free them from the straight-jacket of morbid seriousness that rigorous contextual readings often produce by having them try-on various ideological costumes. By pretending to be figures or masks, they would begin appreciating where allegory in Kafka begins and where it must end.
Frank Humes' Obituary
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last updated: 04/05/96