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Young Academic Alumni Lecture Series: Talk by Brook Henkel '05

Brook Henkel (’05) is a PhD student in the department of Germanic Languages at Columbia University. He received his M.A. (2009) and M.Phil. (2011) from Columbia in German Literature and is currently completing his dissertation, titled “Animistic Fictions, 1900–1930: The Lives of Things in German Modernist Literature and Film.”

On Kafka’s Things: Between Animation and Reification

This talk will address the curious depictions of “living” things in the writings of Franz Kafka. Animated objects such as Odradek from Kafka’s The Cares of a Family Man, for example, have figured prominently both in older debates about commodity fetishism and reification and in more recent, theoretical discussions on the “materiality” and “agency” of things. Read alongside and against such theoretical appropriations, Kafka’s literary representations of things can be situated according to a productive interplay between animation and reification. The fiction of “living” things in Kafka’s writings emerges as a powerful literary strategy for provoking questions about responsibility and mediation in relations among humans and nonhumans.

YAALS - On Kafka’s Things: Between Animation and Reification

The Climbing Stone, by Peter Rockwell '58, is located outside Magill Library.

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