TRANSCENDING SLAPSTICK - Berlin Literaturhaus lecture with Steve Weinberg: How Kafka took the Gestures of Silent Film and made them Absurdly Humorous. “Like El Greco, Kafka tears open the sky behind every gesture...” wrote Walter Benjamin.


The stereotypical image of Kafka as a dreary and solemn prophet is a myth which needs to be debunked. In fact, throughout Kafka’s literature, diaries, and letters, one observes the author’s gift for effervescent, silly, and innovative humor. One area which has been particularly unexplored is Kafka’s penchant for absurd humor in his masterful crafting of gesture. It is no secret that Kafka was an avid silent filmgoer, and worked diligently to capture the dramatic, exaggerated, and boisterous gestures of silent film actors in literary prose. As early as 1934, Walter Benjamin aptly compared Kafka’s artistic style with that of Charlie Chaplin. However, what has not been observed in the scholarship is how Kafka creatively exploits these physical movements in his fiction to infuse them with a strange, avant-garde, postmodern humor. This humor cannot be reduced to slapstick. Rather, Kafka crafts gestures in such a way that their multi-faceted superfluousness unleashes a humor over the motion of the body which can be said to go beyond slapstick.

Steve Weinberg, Fellow at Humboldt Unviversity, studied Kafka’s works and German literature at Beersheba University in Israel. He currently undertakes Ph.D. studies in German literature at Rutgers University in New Jersey.





16 May 2019, 7:30 pm


Fasanen Strasse 23
Contact Tel: 0179 5800972
Event in English/ Free Entry
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