Final Paper-FWS - Schlegel's Influence on the Validity of Kafka's Writings Although writing and living more than a century apart Franz Kafka and

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Schlegel’s Influence on the Validity of Kafka’s Writings Although writing and living more than a century apart, Franz Kafka and Friedrich Schlegel developed the same central theme of failure of communication into all of their writings. Although many of Schlegel’s ideas regarding the failure of communication were found in his essay “On Incomprehensibility”, Kafka weaved this theme in and out of both his fictional writings and autobiographical works, such as writings to his fiancée, and correspondence with his father. Kafka embodied all of Schlegel’s ideas, and although Schlegel came before, it appear as though Schlegel’s essay could have been a review of Kafka’s works. Kafka himself explained it best when he said, “I write differently from the way I speak, speak differently from the way I think, think differently from the way I ought to think, and so on into deepest darkness” (Heller, pg. 373) Both men saw communication as an endless set of layers, with communication becoming ever more jumbled as each layer was pulled back. Through readings and examination of both men’s lives and works it can be determined that there is a crisis of language that results in incomprehensibility, yet this incomprehensibility is unavoidable and essential. First, before examining the necessity of incomprehensibility, it is important to understand what exactly Schlegel meant by “incomprehensibility”. Schlegel’s texts create two questions on the subject: one theoretical and one practical. The essay “On Incomprehensibility” was written as a response to readers of Schlegel’s literary magazine Athenaeum criticizing his work, saying that it simply did not make sense. The practical question dealt with the Athenaeum itself, and a debate arose as to the subjectivity of incomprehensibility, meaning here is a question as to whether the misunderstanding arises from the incompetence of the reader or the writer. The theoretical question
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addresses the incomprehensibility of irony, for an ironic text, “produces two equally legitimate but mutually exclusive meanings” (Albert, pg 834). Schlegel says, “I wanted to prove that all incomprehensibility is relative…and so that the whole business shouldn’t turn around in too palpable a circle I had to make a firm resolve really to be comprehensible, at least this time” (Albert, pg 835). Yet, how is it possible to speak about incomprehensibility in a comprehensible manner? This reveals the spmplest piece of Schlegel’s argument, in that “incomprehensibility shows that there is a problem, and – in the broadest terms—that the problem is connected with one’s use of language” (Albert, pg 835). Basically, it means that two opposite statements are made about the same topic. Language, in essence creates the exact problem that it was created to eliminate. There is no way that a world can exist without some degree of misunderstanding because without language we cannot communicate our thoughts, yet
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This essay was uploaded on 02/07/2008 for the course ENGL 185.9 taught by Professor Depew during the Fall '07 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Final Paper-FWS - Schlegel's Influence on the Validity of Kafka's Writings Although writing and living more than a century apart Franz Kafka and

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