Kaflaka: The Lost King


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For example, the historical-human sciences themselves stand in a historical process, which is at the same time the object as contextual totality of their study Gadamer [ 8 ]. Methods of the natural and the human-historical sciences. Opposed directionality between explanation arrow pointing to smallest circle and understanding arrow pointing from smallest circle , indicating the methods of the natural and human-historical sciences, respectively.

Natural sciences proceed in terms of the 'classic reductionist hierarchy' from sociology to psychology to biology, chemistry and physics. They generally proceed from larger, rather nebulous wholes to seek out explanatory relationships between ever-smaller parts of these wholes.

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Conversely, understanding is contextual by situating parts in ever-greater wholes, even if these totalities are ultimately unavailable to the individual perspective but transcend or 'encompass' it. Each discipline requires an 'abstraction, reduction to and idealization i. Gray areas between disciplines indicate interdisciplinary relationships which are often more fuzzy involving destabilizing relationships within interdisciplinary vocabulary and concepts.


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From Mishara [ 6 ]. Reprinted with permission from Wolters Kluwer. Any claim to unify the natural and human sciences is burdened by seemingly insurmountable problems. These include the integration of two opposing directions of method, the effort to make the contextual "understanding" of subjective experience somehow "objective" and testable in the terms of natural scientific explanation, i. However, I make the unconventional claim requiring justification that Kafka's literary writing provides data about the structure of the human self. That is, it documents processes that are not limited to the individual's experience of self in its historical context, nor the individual's "autobiographical" memory, but reflect the very structure of human self as a transformative process of self-transcendence in symbolic dream images, a process examined further below with its own neurobiological underpinnings, i.

Such an approach is phenomenological. Founded by the mathematician turned philosopher, Edmund Husserl , phenomenology is the rigorous, methodical description of conscious experience and how the general mental structures derived from its descriptive method may be disrupted in neuropsychiatric disorders and anomalous conscious states.

In its step-wise method, phenomenology approaches literary texts as providing "data" about the general structures of consciousness and anomalous states. Phenomenology proposes rather that the human dilemma is to experience oneself as both subject and object [ 9 ]. However, its results are provisional and may be refined by more phenomenological investigation or until tested with the experimental methods of neuroscience.

Let us start with Kafka's early story, " Unhappiness " written in [ 10 ]. For our purposes, we may start with nearly any of Kafka's stories to demonstrate the same structure of doubling [ 10 - 14 ], i. He turns away from the window where the street lamps' sudden illumination startles him.

Turning to the interior of his room, he finds a new goal to pursue in the depths of his own mirror im Grund des Spiegels. The turning away from the artificial light of the streets to the dark interior of his own room and then his mirror suggest that he is turning inward to examine the "depths" of his own self. The mirror provides no answer to his loneliness and he lets out a scream in order to hear it but no one will answer. The self-witnessing of expression but its ultimate ineffectiveness in reaching others are major themes further explored below ; similarly, reflecting on one's own "inner" self also provides no answer as in the discussion of The Bridge below.

The scream meets no resistance to reduce or stop it, even after it has already become silent suggesting that the scream does nothing to diminish the pain which gives rise to it. As if in response, however, the door opens from the wall aus der Wand heraus and horses attached to wagons rise sich erheben in the air. At that moment a small ghost, a child, enters from a completely dark corridor where the lamps are still unlit. The narrator states, " Many of the themes that concern us are announced: the protagonist's loneliness, turning inward, the mirror and scream portending the sudden appearance of a double; v the narrator and his double i.

All seem to reflect Kafka's own state as a writer. Curiously, the light of streetlamps and the dusk which are not particularly intense sources of light cause discomfort first in the narrator and then in the ghost. We know that Kafka suffered from severe, possibly cluster headaches [ 15 ], which may, in part, contribute to his tendency documented below to withdraw from excessive stimulation.

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The suggestion that the narrator's mental state and that of Kafka himself are closely linked is supported by the fact that both live on the third floor [ 16 ], p. Notably, the ghost is born in this moment of need, of loneliness, the searching of inner-depths in a mirror, giving rise to a cry without resonance, or echo, and which never reaches an audience. The fact that this unusual visit was somehow "expected" by the narrator gives it a dream-like quality. Even though the narrator reports bizarre, unusual events the ghost, the elevated horses , he does so with the same matter-of-factness as recounting ordinary experiences during waking consciousness.

As a result, these unusual turns of events are presented as expected or, at least, not surprising. In this respect, Kafka's narrative resembles a dream. Dreaming has been characterized as "single-minded" [ 17 ]. In waking consciousness, we usually are able to reflect on, compare, or recall experiences, or thoughts, apart from the current one we are experiencing. It is not that these processes are completely excluded during dreaming - a counter-example is lucid-dreaming.

It is rather that they are massively attenuated so that dreaming is "isolated" from other capacities or functions of consciousness. One finds a similar inability to transcend one's current perspective, to reflect on, monitor or consider alternative views in acute psychosis of schizophrenia. As in dreaming, one is trapped in the "now" [ 2 , 18 , 19 ]. Kafka's stories and novels often depict this sort of single mindedness which we find in dreaming.

In his novel, The Castle , Kafka describes his protagonist, K. Once the ghost enters, the lonely narrative transitions into a dialogue between narrator and ghost. As in many Kafka stories, the protagonist and the figure s he encounters are inextricably related, as if different parts of the same person. Although the narrator states that the visit was expected, he questions the ghost whether she is really looking for him as so many people live in the building.

However, the ghost's responses make clear that their relationship is beyond the ordinary.

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She states, "no stranger could come nearer to you than I am already by nature" [ 10 ], p. The narrator then protests, "Your nature is mine and if I feel friendly to you by nature, then you musn't be anything else" [ 10 ], p. That is, he insists that his double mirror him and not the converse. Following these self-assertions, the narrator goes to a night-table and lights a candle.

Since no further dialogue follows, the narrator presumably releases himself from the apparition: Through lighting the candle? The verbal self-assertion? Their combination? Leaving the apartment, he meets a neighbor on the stairs and tells him about the ghost. He says to the neighbor insightfully that his real fear does not concern the ghost but "what caused the apparition" [ 10 ], p. The narrator continues, "The ghosts seem to be more dubious about their existence than we are, and no wonder, considering how frail they are" [ 10 ] p.

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If it were a feminine ghost, for instance? Let us compare this story with an actual clinical case of seeing a double what is termed autoscopy viii :. After visiting the grave of her recently deceased husband, a year-old, retired schoolteacher returns home. Upon opening the door, she senses that someone else is in the house in which she is the only occupant. In the twilight-lit room, she sees that another woman is standing in front of her. As she lifts her right hand to turn on the electric light, the figure makes the same movements with her left hand so that their hands meet. She remarks that her own hand feels cold and bloodless from the contact Mishara [ 3 ], paraphrased from Lukianowicz [ 21 ].

As in Kafka's "Unhappiness," the scene is poorly lit and occurs at dusk. It involves a mirroring of the patient's motoric-body ix in that the double anticipates or preempts the subject's intention to switch on the light [ 2 , 3 , 22 - 25 ]. Kafka describes looking in the mirror in his diary. As in Unhappiness , the lighting is poor. The evening light Abendbeleuchtung comes from behind and outlines a darkened face which is " The English translation is misleading. The original German states only that the mirror-face "was observing" not that it "was observing me" , i.

As now a third perspective, it observes Kafka's relationship to himself, i. In Kafka's Metamorphosis , Gregor Samsa suggesting, as we have already indicated, Kafka's own name , finds himself - after awakening one night from uneasy dreams - transformed into a verminous, gigantic insect. It exempts him from the expectations that others impose on him.

Having not yet seen him, his family and the firm's procurist are eager to get inside his bedroom with the sole purpose of pressing him to return to his obligations to them. Inside the room, the transformed Gregor speculates on their reaction once they see him: " If they were horrified then the responsibility would no longer be his and he could stay quiet. But if they took it calmly, then he had no reason either to be upset, and could really get to the station for the eight o'clock train if he hurried" [ 10 ], p.

Since the second alternative is implausible, his transformation exempts him from his responsibility to support the family. Aware of its powerfully repellant effects on others, Gregor is alienated from his body image as he both sees it and how he imagines it to appear to others [ 3 , 22 - 25 ]. With regard to Kafka's own body image, Gilman [ 29 ] asks: "What would Kafka see while looking in the mirror?

By carefully documenting the associations between "illness," "ugliness," and the "feminized" Jewish male body as expressed by the prevailing anti-semitism at the time, Gilman articulates some of the factors which presumably impacted Kafka's own experience of "body image.

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The fact that it is an "artist's" studio already gives us some impetus to think that there must be some association between this "artistic" activity and Kafka's own writing activity. The children cry out that Josef K. Elements of Unhappiness are repeated in this scene from The Trial e.

Gregor's sense of agency or motoric-body i. In a manner which at least superficially resembles the muscular paralysis atonia of REM sleep dreaming and the hallucinatory nightmare experiences of narcoleptic sleep paralysis, Kafka also describes a similarly incapacitated motoric-body in A Country Doctor shortly after the doctor awakens see below.


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  • The transformed Gregor also has sensitivity to light which he avoids not unlike Kafka himself and the protagonist and his ghostly double in Unhappiness. Gregor stops eating and sleeping to hasten the encroaching death of his hateful-body. Gregor's father prevents the charwoman from explaining how she disposed of Gregor and the rest of the family appears indifferent. As already emphasized, the claustrophobic conflation of the narrator's and protagonist's perspectives, or the doubling of the author as protagonist, who, in turn, confronts his own doubles during the course of the narrative, are common features in Kafka's stories.

    Therefore, we will want to clarify why the protagonist's body as the narrator's double in its hidden reflexive relationship to the very writing process which creates it is found to be unsubstantial as in the child ghost or is eventually destroyed leading to the protagonist's death. The timing is critical for understanding the story and we will return to its possible meaning.

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