Paul North’s The Yield: Kafka’s Atheological Reformation is one of the few books to have analyzed Kafka’s so-called Zürau Aphorisms, a collection of short texts from 1917–1918. North reads these notations as “reflections” in the tradition of ontological philosophy, “thoughts” in the style of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, or a theoretical treatise. By referring to Kafka’s notations as “thoughts before” they are tamed, North suggests that they must be distinguished from all literary forms and that their “real story” cannot be reduced to a specific genre or mode of representation, let alone an epoch in the history of literature. This review is an attempt to respond to North from precisely this point of view: the perspective of literary criticism. It suggests that Kafka’s notations might indeed be part of a longer tradition of aphorisms, a genre that has often been conceived as a philosophical form of writing.
Literature as Thought and Thought as Literature: Paul North’s The Yield: Kafka’s Atheological Reformation
Oliver Simons is professor of Germanic languages at Columbia University and previously taught at Harvard University. His first book, Raumgeschichten: Topographien der Moderne in Philosophie, Wissenschaft und Literatur, a comparative study of spatial concepts in literature and thought around 1900, appeared in 2007. Other publications include Literaturtheorien zur Einführung (2009), The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt (coedited with Jens Meierhenrich ), and Kafkas Institutionen (coedited with Arne Höcker ).
Oliver Simons; Literature as Thought and Thought as Literature: Paul North’s The Yield: Kafka’s Atheological Reformation. boundary 2 1 February 2020; 47 (1): 239–250. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-7999593
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