Due date: January 10, 7pm
Long Read: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Part 1
Short Read: "A Hunger Artist" by Franz Kafka. As you read this translation, it will make more sense if you know that the hunger artist's "impresario" is sort of like his handler or owner. The master of ceremonies of his show.
Poem: "I Love My Life's Dark Hours" by Rainer Maria Rilke
I LOVE MY LIFE'S DARK HOURS
I love my life's dark hours
In which my senses quicken and grow deep,
While, as from faint incense of faded flowers
Or letters old, I magically steep
Myself in days gone by: again I give
Myself unto the past:—again I live.
Out of my dark hours wisdom dawns apace,
Infinite Life unrolls its boundless space ...
Then I am shaken as a sweeping storm
Shakes a ripe tree that grows above a grave
'Round whose cold clay the roots twine fast and warm—
And Youth's fair visions that glowed bright and brave,
Dreams that were closely cherished and for long,
Are lost once more in sadness and in song.
If Gregor Samsa had only been able to communicate with his family, how different his story would have been! If you're like me, then as you were reading, you were pleading with Gregor just to nod his head, or spell out his name in bread crusts, or something! Just by eliminating this one form of connection, Kafka dooms his character completely. Rewrite the first section of Metamorphosis (at least 300 words) as you imagine it would be if Gregor could communicate with his sister. What conversation might they have? How might they manage to talk back and forth, given that Gregor can't form human words? How might the story go differently and how might the family approach the problem with this change in the way his "metamorphosis" functions?
|Listen here, you young poet you.|
When my soul touches yours a great chord sings!
How shall I tune it then to other things?
O! That some spot in darkness could be found
That does not vibrate whene'er your depths sound.
But everything that touches you and me
Welds us as played strings sound one melody.
Where is the instrument whence the sounds flow?
And whose the master-hand that holds the bow?
O! Sweet song—
Alienation means feeling like you don't belong, either to society or even to yourself. Alienation is a major theme of both Metamorphosis and "The Hunger Artist." In a 300 word essay, tell how Gregor Samsa and the hunger artist are both alienated from society. Think about their differences in circumstances and their similarities. Don't just say "Samsa is alienated because he's been turned into a bug." That's obvious, but doesn't really tell what the alienation means. Explain the things he can't do now, the rituals and social structures he can't participate in, the connections that are severed because of his situation. Then talk about the hunger artist and how he's isolated, unable to engage with society. By whose choice is each man alienated? Could either man willingly end his alienation? What do you think Kafka is trying to tell us about alienation in a post-industrial world?
This link may help.
1. What is Gregor Samsa's job?
2. What does that job require him to do on a usual day?
3. Who lives in the apartment (or flat) with Gregor?
4. Who comes to visit on the morning of his transformation, and why?
5. How do we know that Gregor's words are not understood by the people outside the door?
6. What does the Chief Clerk say the boss thinks about Gregor?
7. How does Gregor manage to get the door unlocked and open?
8. According to Gregor, what is hard about being a traveling salesman? List at least two things.
9. What is the Chief Clerk's reaction to Gregor's appeal to him?
10. What was Gregor's father's solution to the problem created by Gregor's presence?