Activities

Kafka, Religion, and Modernity

International symposium, St. John's College, Oxford
24
-26 September 2012

 

Until recently, the religious interpretations of Kafka's work, which began with his friend Max Brod and continued into the heyday of existentialism, were considered outdated and discredited. For some decades, religion has featured in Kafka interpretation only as an aspect of his relation to Judaism. This means ignoring important areas of his work, notably the Zürau aphorisms of 1917-18, and overlooking e.g. the fact that a central chapter of The Trial is set in a cathedral.

 

Now, however, it has become possible and even necessary to speak, with Daniel Weidner, of a 'religious turn', or, with Jürgen Habermas, of a 'post-secular society'. Ernst Wolfgang Böckenförde has asked whether modern societies can themselves provide a foundation for the values on which they are founded, or whether, in Böckenförde's words, 'The liberal secular state is based on assumptions which it cannot itself guarantee'. Evidently modernity can no longer be equated with an inevitable and irreversible process of secularization, understood as the disappearance of religion. Instead, we want to consider 'secularization' as a transfer of meaning from one domain to another, in which art and literature take over tasks previously reserved for religion.

 

Within this framework, we want to investigate Kafka's relation to religion in new ways. We want to explore how religious questions are addressed by literary means; to ask how far this leads to individual, heterodox, and creative constructions of religion; and to generate new research both on modern developments within central European Judaism and on Kafka's later texts. Hence we aim to pose broad questions, to test them against Kafka's oeuvre, and thus to shed further light on Kafka and his intellectual milieu.

 

This symposium is the third one in a series of congresses on Kafka's late work organised by the Princeton-Humboldt-Oxford Kafka-Network.

 

We thank the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung for its financial support of the symposium.

 

 

 

Programme

Monday, 24 September
08.30 Welcome
  I. Concepts of Religion and Literary Religiosity in Modernity

09.00

George Pattison (Oxford), Religion and the Form of the Self. Religious Thought in Central Europe around the First World War

09.30

Judith Wolfe (Oxford), Some Aspects of Religion and Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century Europe

10.00

Discussion

10.30

Coffee-break

11.00

Bernd Auerochs (Kiel), Hilflose Historiker. Religiöser Antihistorismus um 1920 und Franz Kafka

11.30

Nicholas Saul (Durham), Foundations and Oceans. Religion and Literature after Darwin in Haeckel and Bölsche

12.00

Discussion

12.30

Lunch

14.30

Michael Neumann (Konstanz), »Religion der Wirklichkeit« (F. Mauthner). Ritual und Verwandlung in der Moderne

15.00

Ben Morgan (Oxford), Kierkegaard in Germany in the Early 20th Century

15.30

Discussion

16.00

Tea-break

  II. Heterodox Religiosity in Jewish Modernity

16.30

Stanley Corngold (Princeton), On Scholem’s Gnostically-Minded View of Kafka

17.00 Michael Jennings (Princeton), Judaism, Christianity, and Syncretism in Walter Benjamin's »Franz Kafka« and »The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility«

17.30

Discussion

 

 

Tuesday, 25 September

09.00

Peter Thompson (Sheffield), Ernst Bloch’s Atheism in Christianity. Modernity and the Possibilities for Belief

  III. Elements of the ’Religious’ in Kafka’s Work

09.30

Ritchie Robertson (Oxford), Sex as Sin or Salvation? Max Brod’s »Heidentum, Christentum, Judentum« in Relation to Kafka’s »Schloss«

10.00

Discussion

10.30

Coffee-break

11.00

Irmgard Wirtz (Bern), Wahrspruch und Widerspruch: Kafkas verlorene Söhne

11.30

Daniel Weidner (ZfL Berlin), »Nichts der Offenbarung«, »unanständige« und »inverse Theologie«. Kafkas ›religious turn‹

12.00

Discussion

12.30

Lunch

14.30

Bernard Dieterle (Université de Haute-Alsace), Schauplätze des Religiösen. Überlegungen zum Dom-Kapitel in Kafkas Der Process

15.00 Manfred Engel (Saarbrücken), Religion als symbolische Form. Vorüberlegungen zu einer Poetik des Religiösen in Kafkas Werk
15.30 Discussion
16.00 Tea-break
  
Wednesday, 15 September

09.00

Malte Kleinwort (HU Berlin), Vor der Religion – Kafka »in Anfällen einer Art wacher Ohnmacht«

09.30

Gerhard Neumann (FU Berlin), Dom und Synagoge. Kafkas Deutungsräume der Religion

10.00

Discussion

10.30

Coffee-break

11.00

Peter-André Alt (FU Berlin), Kafkas Reflexionen über den Komplex des Bösen, am Beispiel der Zürauer Aphorismen

11.30

Discussion

12.30

Lunch

   

 

Convenors

     Manfred Engel,  Ritchie Robertson

Conference venue

     New Seminar Room, St. John's College

Accommodation for speakers

     St. John's College, St. Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JP (www.sjc.ox.ac.uk)

Conference fee (for guests)

     £ 20 (reduced fee for students: £ 10)

Contact

     niklas.gaupp@sjc.ox.ac.uk