Write a blog post that is a close reading of the exchange between Georg and his fiancée Frieda in Franz Kafka’s The Judgment. We’ll begin by focusing mostly on the first five or so pages of the story on Friday and will look at the relationship between Georg and the Friend and how Frieda plays into it. Consider the differences between Georg and the Friend, what they both do, how they are described, and what they might ‘represent’. How does Frieda respond to the existence of this Friend in the exchange with Georg? What might be so problematic about the Friend? What does the Friend threaten? That is, why does Frieda say “I really do feel offended” (61) and what is so important about Georg’s response, “That is how I am, and that is how he must take me” (62)?
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.
– Letter to Oskar Pollak, 27 January 1904
Yesterday it occurred to me that I did not always love my mother as she deserved and as I could, only because the German language prevented it. The Jewish mother is no ‘Mutter’, to call her ‘Mutter’ makes her a little comic […], we give a Jewish woman the name of a German mother, but forget the contradiction that sinks into the emotions so much the more heavily, ‘Mutter’ is peculiarly German for the Jew, it unconsciously contains, together with the Christian splendor Christian coldness also, the Jewish woman who is called ‘Mutter’ therefore becomes not only comic but strange. Mama would be a better name if only one didn’t imagine ‘Mutter’ behind it.
– Diaries, 24 October 1911
The tremendous world I have in my head. But how free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times rather be torn to pieces than retain it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me.
–Diaries, 21 June 1913
I am nothing but literature and can and want to be nothing else.
– Diaries, 21 August 1913
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.
But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons — the modern working class — the proletarians.
In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.
passages taken from: marxists.org (1888, Translated by Samuel Moore with Friedrich Engels)
ecstasy (n.) late 14c., extasie “elation,” from Old French estaise “ecstasy, rapture,” from Late Latin extasis, from Greek ekstasis “entrancement, astonishment, insanity; any displacement or removal from the proper place,” in New Testament “a trance,” from existanai “displace, put out of place,” also “drive out of one’s mind” (existanai phrenon), from ek “out” (see ex-) + histanai “to place, cause to stand,” from PIE root *stā- “to stand” (see stet).
To Franz Liszt
By Charles Baudelaire
What is a thyrsus? According to the moral and poetical sense, it is a sacerdotal emblem in the hand of the priests or priestesses celebrating the divinity of whom they are the interpreters and servants. But physically it is no more than a baton, a purp staff, a hop-pole, a vine-prop; dry, straight, and hard. Around this baton, in capricious meanderings, stems and flowers twine and wanton; these, sinuous and fugitive; those, hanging like bells or inverted cups. And an astonishing complexity disengages itself from this complexity of tender or brilliant lines and colours. Would not one suppose that the curved line and the spiral pay their court to the straight line, and twine about in a mute adoration? Would not one say that all these delicate corollae, all these calices, explosions of odours and colours, execute a mystical dance around the hieratic staff? And what imprudent mortal will dare to decide whether the flowers and the vine branches have been made for the baton, or whether the baton is not but a pretext to set forth the beauty of the vine branches and the flowers?
The thyrsus is the symbol of your astonishing duality, O powerful and venerated master, dear bacchanal of a mysterious- and impassioned Beauty. ‘ Never a nymph excited by the mysterious Dionysius shook her thyrsus over the heads of her companions with as much energy as your genius trembles in the hearts of your brothers. The baton is your will: erect, firm, unshakeable; the flowers are the wanderings of your fancy around it: the feminine element encircling the masculine with her illusive dance. Straight line and arabesque — intention and expression — the rigidity of the will and the suppleness of the word — a variety of means united for a single purpose — the all-powerful and indivisible amalgam that is genius — what analyst will have the detestable courage to divide or to separate you?
Dear Liszt, across the fogs, beyond the flowers, in towns where the pianos chant your glory, where the printing-house translates your wisdom; in whatever place you be, in the splendour of the Eternal City or among the fogs of the dreamy towns that Cambrinus consoles; improvising rituals of delight or ineffable pain, or giving to paper your abstruse meditations; singer of eternal pleasure and pain, philosopher, poet, and artist, I offer you the salutation of immortality!
“To a Woman Passing By”
The deafening road around me roared.
Tall, slim, in deep mourning, making majestic grief,
A woman passed, lifting and swinging
With a pompous gesture the ornamental hem of her garment,
Swift and noble, with statuesque limb.
As for me, I drank, twitching like an old roué,
From her eye, livid sky where the hurricane is born,
The softness that fascinates and the pleasure that kills,
A gleam… then night! O fleeting beauty,
Your glance has given me sudden rebirth,
Shall I see you again only in eternity?
Somewhere else, very far from here! Too late! Perhaps never!
For I do not know where you flee, nor you where I am going,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!
— Geoffrey Wagner, Selected Poems of Charles Baudelaire (NY: Grove Press, 1974)
It is not given to everyone to be able to bathe in the multitude: enjoyment of the crowd is an art; and he alone who makes, at the expense of the human race, a revelry of vitality, is he whom a faerie has inspired in his cradle with a taste for dressing up and masque, a hatred for domesticity and a passion for travel.
Multitude, solitude: two equal and interchangeable terms for the active and creative poet. He who does not know how to populate his solitude, will not know how to be alone in the bustling crowd.
The poet enjoys the incomparable privilege, of being as he likes, himself or others. Like errant souls searching for a body, he enters, when he likes, the personage of each. For him alone, all is open; and if certain places appear to him closed, it is because in his eyes they are not worth the trouble of visiting.
The solitary and thoughtful stroller derives a singular intoxication from this universal communion. He who easily weds the crowd knows the feverish ecstasies, eternally deprived the selfish, locked like a coffer, and the lazy, incarcerated like a mollusc. He adopts as his own all professions, all joys and sorrows circumstances present to him.
What men call love is very small, very restrained and very weak, compared to this ineffable orgy, to the sacred prostitution of the soul that gives itself entirely, poetry and charity, unexpectedly, to the unknown passer-by.
It is good to teach sometimes the happy ones of the world, if only to humble them for a moment in their foolish pride, that there is greater happiness than theirs, vaster and more refined. Founders of colonies, ministers of people, missionary priests exiled to the ends of the earth, doubtless know something of these mysterious intoxications, and at the breast of the vast family that their genius has created, they must laugh sometimes at those who pity them their restless fortunes and chaste lives.
Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes dissimilar things comparable by reducing them to abstract quantities. For the Enlightenment, anything which cannot be resolved into numbers, and ultimately into one, is illusion; modern positivism consigns it to poetry. Unity remains the watchword from Parmenides to Russell. All gods and qualities must be destroyed. — Dialectic of Enlightenment, pg 5-6.
After reading a number of responses to the French Revolution that critiqued many aspects of the changes made to French society founded on an ‘Enlightened’ world view, consider what Shelley sees as Poetry’s task. How does Shelley see Poetry entering this debate about how a new, post-Revolution society should look? Please use direct, textual evidence. 300 words minimum.
The existence of monsters throws doubt on life’s ability to teach us order. This doubt is immediate, no matter for how long a time we have had confidence, no matter how accustomed we have been to see honeysuckle grow on honeysuckle vines, tadpoles become frogs, mares suckle colts, and in general to see like engender like. It is sufficient that this confidence be shaken once by a morphological variation, by a single equivocal appearance, for a radical fear to possess us. Perhaps, fear, you will say; but why radical? Because we are living beings, real effects of the laws of life, and in our turn future causes of life. A failure on the part of life concerns us doubly: a failure could affect us, and we could cause a failure. It is only because we men are living beings that a morphological failure is, in our eyes, a monster. Suppose we were pure reason, a pure intellectual machine for observing, calculating, and accounting-inert, and indifferent to the objects that give rise t0 thought: in that case the monster would simply be that which was different from the ordinary, of an order other than the most probable order.
Georges Canguilhem, “Monstrosity and the Monstrous”
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” (1490)
from an illustrated edition of Vitruvius’ De architectura (~0) by Cesare Cesariano (1521)