University of Tasmania
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Kafka's Landarzt collection : rhetoric & interpretation

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posted on 2023-05-27, 15:36 authored by Triffitt, GB
Despite the hundreds of commentaries on the individual pieces comprising the Landarzt collection, very few scholars have concerned themselves with the work as a totality, and none of them has adequately accounted for the quite specific ordering of the pieces, although Kafka, himself, clearly set considerable store by the matter, as is evident from his letters to his publisher and his eventual withdrawal of the piece Der Kulbelreiter before publication. The overriding aim of this study is to make good the omissions of previous scholars, not only by providing detailed analyses of all the texts as they occur in the collection, but also by defining the structural-thematic principles which underlie their sequence, modify their meaning through contextual interaction, and unite them into a coherent whole. As a preliminary to interpretation, however, an attempt is made to isolate and describe the main features of Kafka's fictional rhetoric, particularly as exemplified by the collection. In part, this is undertaken through a critical survey of previous Kafka scholarship, concentrating on four dominant, historically successive attitudes to the interpretation of the author's work (Eindeutigkeit, Vieldeutigkeit, Undeutbarkeit, suspensive Interpretation) and the four main theoretical concepts associated with them (Allegorik, Parabolik, Einsinnigkeit, Paradoxie). Although this survey leads to the conclusion that most of the conflicting views about the meaning of Kafka's works can be attributed, not to the intrinsic nature of the texts, themselves, but to the inadequacy of the critical theories applied to them, it also seeks, more positively, to clarify all of the issues concerned, especially those factors which actually form part of Kafka's rhetoric, namely, parable, point of view and paradox. From these more general, theoretical considerations, the third chapter then proceeds specifically to analyse the principal elements of Kafka's rhetoric in the collection itself, namely, structure as indirect commentary, point of view as reinforcing structure, and symbol as indicating the direction of meaning. Although limitations on length prevent this analysis from being more comprehensive, other important factors such as temporal perspective, irony and the grotesque have not been entirely ignored and are, in any case, mentioned or discussed at the appropriate places in the subsequent interpretations. Basing itself on the preceding examination of Kafka's rhetoric, the last chapter endeavours to fulfil the already stated, overriding aim of the study. Briefly, it concludes that the opening piece raises the question of a valid modus vivendi in modern times, and that this problem is not resolved until the last piece of the collection. Within the framework provided by these two pieces, the remainder are arranged in thematic pairs according to the·particular aspect of modern life they portray and its implications in the search for positive existential purpose. Furthermore, within each pair, the second always displays a more controlled, distanced, often ironic attitude than the first, and the progress from one pair to the next is determined by the movement from the more general to the more specific, so that the collection traces a gradual reduction in scope, an increasing restriction to a more narrow, more particular and more tangible aspect of existence. Finally, in its concluding remarks, the study tries to explain why the collection was ultimately dedicated to Kafka's father, why the author chose to call it Ein Landarzt, and how its concerns are related to the corresponding period in Kafka's life and times.


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Copyright 1982 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 1984. Bibliography: l. 251-269

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