Das virtuelle Kafka-Bureau

The Project

No other modern author represents more literally the “madness of writing,” “through which every writer leaves behind the archive of his own erasure,” than the Prague writer and social insurance official Franz Kafka.  By crossing the procedures of bureaucratic administration with literary techniques such as citation, allusion, or echo to produce a unique, nomadic text-administration, the writer Franz Kafka becomes the recording clerk of his epoch.  Taking up the task that Theodor Herzl’s political manifesto “The Jewish State” assigned to the Society of Jews, the cultural organ of his State-founding project, Kafka’s literary work functions as a dynamic archive that collects “all of the proclamations of statesmen, parliaments, […] communities, associations, that appear in speech and in writing, in assemblies, newspapers and books,” and, going beyond Herzl’s assignment, sets them in resonance with each other, in series of dialogues without hierarchy.

Based on concepts from literary, media, and cultural studies and in the service of these fields, the Virtual Kafka-Bureau aims to open up the intertextual and transmedial space of Kafka’s work by creating a digital work environment for scholars. In the first stage of the project, Transcoop, a German-American research association (Siegen/Regensburg/HU Berlin/Tübingen and Princeton), financed by grants from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, is tapping the field of Kafka’s  “readings” – understood across multiple media – and registering them into a relational database called Kafka’s Virtual Media Library.

In the second stage of the project, the searchable records of the Media Library will be made navigable as a dynamic Kafka-Hypertext. The Virtual Kafka-Bureau is thus destined not only for literary, media and cultural scholars, but should also serve as a digital learning resource for schools (for the practice of text interpretation, reading techniques, historical contexts, etc.).

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