Kafka's Humor: German Reception and the (Un)translatability into the American Idiom

CGS Brown Bag Series
Apr 20, 2016
12:15 PM to 01:15 PM
157 Burrowes

Lauren Brooks, Penn State

If there were a Himalayan range of world literature authors, then Franz Kafka would certainly be one of the peaks. And as is always the case with world literature, a tension exists between local, contextual readings of a Czech Jew who wrote in German, and a work in translation that seems to address the human condition in general. What happens to the humor of Kafka in this process of worlding and how can we describe its continued existence in translation in, for example American literature and popular culture? My dissertation analyzes the humor of Franz Kafka’s works, beginning with his early experiences with the Yiddish Theater and leading up to the current reception of his work in the United States by linking Kafka to the American television series Seinfeld and exploring how Kafka has been appropriated into American culture. This talk will focus on my findings at the German Literary Archives in Marbach, Germany which includes the early reception of Kafka, by means of the reviews and criticism published during his lifetime and those published shortly after his death in 1924.

Lauren Brooks is a fourth-year PhD candidate in German Literature and Culture at the Pennsylvania State University. Before coming to Penn State she spent six years in Bremen, Germany, where she taught English to business professionals. After returning to the United States, she completed her MA degree in German Studies at California State University Long Beach in 2012. Her dissertation focuses on Franz Kafka and Humor. Other areas of interest include foreign language pedagogy, Kleist, Schiller, and the German novella as well as Brecht, modern German drama, theater, and film. She is also the creator and organizer of the annual Poetry Without Borders event. She is currently working as a Graduate Instructional Consultant in the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence for the 2015-2016 academic year.

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