Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Franz Kafka's Fin de Siècle

Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Franz Kafka's Fin de Siècle

Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Franz Kafka's Fin de Siècle

Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Franz Kafka's Fin de Siècle

Synopsis

"This admirably lucid, impressively well researched, and theoretically sophisticated book provides both a cultural history of Prague, focusing on its German-Jewish writers, and a broader context for reading Franz Kafka. It brings out the complex ways in which a 'minor' literature has a powerful if problematic political import."--Dominick LaCapra, Cornell University

""Prague Territories" is a marvelous study of the 'Prague circle' writers of the generation of the 1890s, most notably Kafka, but also Max Brod, Egon Erwin Kisch, and Franz Werfel, among others. The book uses the figure of the circle as an organizing metaphor, both for the intersecting patterns of artistic collaboration and more abstractly in the hermeneutic sense. It is beautifully written and sensitively balances the at once overwhelming and yet fraternal presence of Kafka."--Carla Hesse, University of California, Berkeley

"A remarkably fresh, engaging study that breaks new ground."--Mark Anderson, Columbia University

"Organized with elegance, both conceptual and stylistic, the book combines historical and literary analysis at the cutting edges of both disciplines."--Michael P. Steinberg, Cornell University

Excerpt

What follows is a cultural history of a moment that can only be described as exceptional. Its exceptionality was what drew me to it in the first place; there is something compelling about the extraordinary conditions bearing upon national, ideological, and aesthetic identities that were particular to turn-of-the-century Prague. These circumstances were even more idiosyncratic for the small demographic group that has been my focus: the German-speaking Jews of Franz Kafka's generation. So in the course of telling that history, if not in this preface, I feel compelled to address the question of why an example so unexemplary might be particularly useful to the general project of the study of European modernity. That is one concern. Another arises from the intention to write history while depending to an important degree on literary texts, and on readings of contexts informed by literary studies. Both of these concerns can be expressed as a single question: What is Franz Kafka's “place” in “history”?

This question of placement is closely linked to the heuristic figure 1 will be describing as “territory, ” and which is drawn from the persistent reiteration of spatial metaphor in the self-reflexive language of writers of Kafka's generation (a group of whom have come to be known, albeit problematically, as “the Prague circle”). This book is about the emergence of and projected resistances to “territorial ideology”—which I understand as a conceptual system, or naturalized way of looking at one's place in the world, that grounds the sociopolitical claims of nationalism . . .

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