Of big ears and bondage: Benjamin, Kafka, and the static of the Sirens

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Abstract

Walter Benjamin writes about a childhood photograph of Franz Kafka on two occasions: his essay on photography and his commemorative text, "Franz Kafka: Zur zehnten Wiederkehr seines Todestages." In the latter, Benjamin describes not only the close atmosphere and tight-fitting clothing that he notes in his "Kleine Geschichte der Photographie," but also the prominent, large ear of the depicted six-year old subject. In posing the question how the acoustics of this still image relate to the stifling scenery and clothing that appear, in Benjamin's account, to envelop the child, this article addresses the gestural dimension of acoustic phenomena in Kafka's œuvre, and above all, its tendency towards prayer - a prayer that, perhaps, resonates less with the attentiveness that, for Malebranche, is the natural prayer of the soul, than the holy prostitution of Baudelaire's Spleen de Paris.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-215
Number of pages20
JournalThe German Quarterly
Volume87
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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