|Franz Kafka: His Life and Work
Many of us know "Metamorphosis", and people use the term Kafkaesque in an off-handed way. But there was a lot more to Kafka than many of us are aware of. This is more of a biographical study than a literature course. He lived at a time of major intersections between religion and science, between monarchy and democracy, between agriculture and the industrial revolution, and the end of Romanticism. He was a lawyer and worked full time for two different insurance agencies. He read widely and carefully. Kafka knew the Greeks and Romans, Cervantes, and most of the Western canon. He was an ardent student of the Jewish tradition and could be very humorous, similar to comedians of the day such as Charlie Chaplin.
Kafka’s fascinating life and extensive works have continued to be a resource for Richard Simmonds since he was first introduced to him in high school. “I feel an affinity with Kafka: I like to think deeply about the nature of life and especially my life. I have always felt an affinity with his humor. He was always on the go, as I have been, though in different ways. I have looked to him as a person I could and still can, learn from. Regardless of affinity, I contend that you’ll find there is much more to discover beneath the surface which we all touch upon in our culture and language. Join me to examine Kafka’s works from the Aphorisms to the novels, showing on the way how his life experiences led to his major works—The Trial and The Castle—and to his posthumous fame.”
Kafka wrote a broad variety of length and style. Each week’s class will begin with a careful reading of an Aphorism, a Parable or a Short Story, then go on to a discussion of Kafka’s life or major pieces of his work. Read Metamorphosis before class, It will be a touchstone for our discussions.
Week 1: The Destination
Discussion of Kafka’s family, his friends, his work and daily life, Prague and what it was like to live in this tumultuous city as a German Jew. What was a day in the life of Kafka like?
Week 2: The Garden of Eden
Kafka’s love life and samplings from his letters to his fiancées
Week 3: The Judgment
Kafka’s relationship with his father. Discussion of Letter to My Father
Week 4: The Coming of the Messiah
A further discussion of Kafka’s relationship to Judaism. A discussion of The Penal Colony
Week 5: A discussion of The Trial, using the first chapter as our in-depth reading piece.
Week 6: A discussion of The Castle and closing up of discussions we didn’t have time for. A peek at Amerika.
Richard Simmonds has lived in San Francisco since the 1980s. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan, Richard enrolled in a year-long seminar with Willem Emrich on Kafka at Freie Universität, Berlin. He then earned his M.A. from The Ohio State University and and Ph.D. from UCSD. He went on to teach English, and serve as the Dean of Students at Verde Valley School in Sedona, AZ. At one point, he received a grant to research for a book about the recent religious traditions in Northern Sri Lanka which was published in 1990. While operating his business in Kainaliu, Hawaii, he taught a writing course at the Kona Extension of the University of Hilo. At one point, he gained much deeper a real understanding of Kafka, while he worked as a waiter at Modesto Lanzones, and Doros. After his retirement in 2011, among his writing and other endeavors, Richard became a very involved OLLI at SF State member.