Date Thesis Awarded

4-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Modern Languages and Literatures

Advisor

Robert Leventhal

Committee Members

Sibel Zandi-Sayek

Michael Cronin

Abstract

This thesis analyzes Franz Kafka’s representation of public space by situating his short fiction in the context of how Prague’s public spaces transformed around the fin-de-siècle. During the Czech National Revival, the Czech educated and semi-educated middle-class sought to transform Prague from a nationally undifferentiated space, shared by both Czech- and German-speakers, to one exclusively promoting a Czech national identity. The German middle-class responded by also publicly expressing its own national identity and values. Indeed, middle-class civic society in nineteenth century and early-twentieth century Prague brought changes to urban space to create distinct spaces oriented around the language and symbols of German or Czech nationalism. In these pieces, Kafka responds to a host of themes defining public life that I have separated into three distinct, yet related pairs: belonging/unbelonging to public spaces and community, possession/purification of public spaces, and power/humiliation of ethnic groups. All three were constantly at play and at stake as Prague eventually became a distinctly Czech capital. “An Old Manuscript” (“Ein Altes Blatt”) essentially concentrates on the relationship between public space and group identity formation and, as a result, evokes not only the nationalization of Prague’s public spaces, but also the mirror-culture developing in the city as Czech and German nationalists increasingly mimicked each other in public life. “An Imperial Message” (“Eine Kaiserliche Botschaft”) and “The Burrow” (“Der Bau”) scrutinize the privileged position that German culture and identity held in the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the lens of imperial and nationalized spaces. Lastly, I will offer a reading of “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk” (“Josefine, die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse”) as a narrative whose principle concern is the way nineteenth and twentieth century mass politics re-defined Prague’s public spaces.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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