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ENGLISH 4KK3 Kafka After Kafka (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Iris Bruce


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 502

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24697

Office Hours: Tuesday 11:30-12:30; Wednesday 2:30-3:30

Course Objectives:

Students will investigate the reasons for Kafka’s popularity in so many cultures around the world by examining how themes of metamorphosis, marginality, power, and identity -- so central in Kafka’s work -- reemerge especially in postwar film and fiction.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

These are available at Titles, the university bookstore.

Abe, Kobo. Woman in the Dunes (Vintage)

Barwin, Gary. Franzlations [The imaginary Kafka parables] (New Star Books)

Kafka, Franz, The Complete Stories (Schocken)

Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis (Modern Library)

Keret, Edgar . Suddenly, A Knock on the Door (Farrar, Straus & Geroux)

Mairowitz, D.Z. & Crumb, R, Kafka (Fantagraphic Books)

Schulz, Bruno, Collected Stories (Penguin Classics)

Roth, Philip. The Breast (Vintage)


Films will include Peter Capaldi’s Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Excerpts will be shown from Hiroshi Teshigahara’s A Woman in the Dunes, Orson Welles’ The Trial, David Cronenberg’s The Fly/Naked Lunch/Videodrome, Woody Allen’s Zelig, and Joel & Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man.

Method of Assessment:

Research Essay (2500-3000 words) . . . .. . . . . 40% (due: November 21)

Seminar Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .  30%

Response Paper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 20%

Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10%


Students must hand in a seminar presentation or response paper before Wednesday, November 9.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignment Policy:

All essays are due either in class or electronically by the end of the day on the assigned date. 

Written Work and Late Submissions: 

Late work will be penalized: there will be a reduction of 3% per day on essays handed in late without permission, and they will receive no extensive commentary.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


The discussion of certain texts may flow over to the following class.


September 5: Introduction; Borges, “Kafka and His Precursors” (handout); Peter Capaldi, It’s a Wonderful Life.

September 12: “The Metamorphosis” & Mairowitz & Cronenberg (The Fly & Naked Lunch excerpts)

September 19: Bruce, “Elements of Jewish Folklore”, Santner, “Metamorphosis and the Writing of Abjection,” Zilkosky, “Samsa was a Travelling Salesman” (The Metamorphosis 197-271); Mairowitz; Kafka, “Give it Up” (CL 456); “The Trees” (382); “The Wish to be a Red Indian” (390), “An Imperial Message” (4), “The Next Village” (404)

September 26: Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium under the Hourglass

October 3: Philip Roth, The Breast & ‘“I Always Wanted You To Admire My Fasting’; Or Looking at Kafka” (Metamorphosis 100-23); Kafka, “The Hunger Artist” (268).

October 10: NO Class; Midterm Recess (Oct. 8-140)

October 17: Walter Benjamin, “Franz Kafka” (Metamorphosis 124-57); Kafka, “A Crossbreed” (CL 426), “The Cares of a Family Man” (427), “Josephine, the Singer, or the Mouse Folk” (360), “Investigations of a Dog” (278).

October 24: Kobo Abe, Woman in the Dunes & film by Hiroshi Teshigahara

October 31: Gary Barwin, Franzlations [The imaginary Kafka parables]

November 7: Edgar Keret, Suddenly, A Knock on the Door

November 14: Kafka, “A Country Doctor” (CL 220) and excerpts from Cronenberg’s Videodrome

November 21: Woody Allen’s film, Zelig; ESSAY DUE

November 28: Kafka, “Before the Law” (3) & Orson Welles’ film, The Trial (excerpt); Mairowitz’s Trial; Coen brothers’ A Serious Man (excerpt).

December 5: Kafka, “The Vulture” (442) & review of Kafka in Popular Culture. LAST DAY OF CLASSES

Other Course Information:

Course Description:

This course will study the influence of Franz Kafka’s fiction on writers, critics, and film makers of the twentieth century. Mairowitz/Crumb’s comic book, Kafka, demonstrates how Kafka has entered into contemporary North American pop culture. We will read original Kafka texts--his Metamorphosis and many of his short stories--along with critical essays by Walter Benjamin, J. L. Borges, and Philip Roth. From there we will move on to artists from various cultures (German, American, British, Japanese, Polish, Israeli, Canadian) who engage in a dialogical exchange with Kafka’s work and place him within their own modern or post-modern contexts. The course will draw equally on “high” literature and texts/films from popular culture, such as science fiction, graphic novels, and films by Hiroshi Teshigahara, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, David Cronenberg and the Coen brothers. We will examine the relationships that exist between Kafka and these (post-) modern transformations of his work.