Tightropes and tripwires: a Buddhist interpretation of suffering through attachment in Kafka’s work

Cerase, Damian Saverio (2014) Tightropes and tripwires: a Buddhist interpretation of suffering through attachment in Kafka’s work. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

The aim of the dissertation is to challenge perceptions of Kafka’s work as negative by developing more constructive readings of the accounts of suffering and abandonment which form an undeniable feature of his writing. The term ‘Kafkaesque’ is now in widespread use to indicate a situation or event characterised by frustration and torment, but this designation paints an unnecessarily bleak picture of Kafka’s fictional landscapes. One path towards a brighter view of his art is offered by Buddhism, which puts suffering at the centre of its philosophy and yet develops a positive spiritual outlook on life. It does so by giving clear reasons for suffering based on natural causes, leaving no room for mysterious or irresistible forces. From a Buddhist standpoint, the most formidable barrier to alleviating suffering is not presented by a powerful Court or an impregnable Castle, but by the human self or – more precisely – attachment to self. The Buddhist approach to Kafka reads his works in two complementary ways, for content (information) and form (expression). The first examines the close parallels between key Buddhist teachings (such as on suffering and emptiness) and predominant themes from Kafka’s writing (such as futile quests after recognition and justice); the second explores the gaps and paradoxes that confront Kafka’s characters and readers, and measures them against the absurd, nonsensical utterances (koans) used by Zen masters to nonplus their students and loosen their dependency on conventional modes of thinking. In this way, it will be shown that the suffering Kafka describes so relentlessly can be traced back to personal attachments rather than intervention by external agencies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Arts > European Cultures & Languages
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2014 12:52
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 12:47
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/80

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