Kafka's Jewish Languages: The Hidden Openness of Tradition

Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 15 (2):65-132 (2007)
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Abstract

This essay connects Kafka's German and his Jewish linguistic sources, and explores the trans-national perspective on literary tradition they helped him create. I begin with a critique of Deleuze and Guattari's view of Kafka as a minority writer, showing how their cold war nationalism scants the positive contributions that Yiddish and Hebrew made to his work. I continue with an examination of the "twilight of containment," when this postcontemporary Kafka began to break through his cold war canonization after 1989. Other sections include: "German-Jewish Traditions: The Echoes of Yiddish," on Kafka's cultural politics; "Hebrew: Zionism in a Transnational Key"; and "Goethe's Jewish Voices," on Yiddish as a model for Kafka's new conception of national writing. I conclude by considering the Jewish and other sources of Kafka's "linguistic turn," and the general, transnational focus on tradition that Jewish languages brought to his classic texts.

Author's Profile

David Suchoff
Colby College

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