Kafka and Noise (Hardcover)

The Discovery of Cinematic Sound in Literary Modernism

By Kata Gellen

Northwestern University Press, 9780810138940, 264pp.

Publication Date: January 15, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (1/15/2019)

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A series of disruptive, unnerving sounds haunts the fictional writings of Franz Kafka. These include the painful squeak in Gregor Samsa's voice, the indeterminate whistling of Josefine the singer, the relentless noise in "The Burrow," and telephonic disturbances in The Castle. In Kafka and Noise, Kata Gellen applies concepts and vocabulary from film theory to Kafka's works in order to account for these unsettling sounds. Rather than try to decode these noises, Gellen explores the complex role they play in Kafka's larger project.
Kafka and Noise offers a method for pursuing intermedial research in the humanities—namely, via the productive "misapplication" of theoretical tools, which exposes the contours, conditions, and expressive possibilities of the media in question. This book will be of interest to scholars of modernism, literature, cinema, and sound, as well as to anyone wishing to explore how artistic and technological media shape our experience of the world and the possibilities for representing it.

About the Author

KATA GELLEN is an assistant professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature at Duke University.

Praise For Kafka and Noise: The Discovery of Cinematic Sound in Literary Modernism

“For any reader captivated by the curious persistence of strange sounds in Kafka’s work, the consequences of Gellen’s work simply for understanding Kafka’s are exciting in themselves.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

"Impeccably argued and thoroughly researched, this book offers a series of original and incisive perspectives on Kafka's work in general, the role of sound and noise in Kafka's writing, and the coming of sound to twentieth-century literature. It will clearly add important new scholarship to the field of Kafka research, as well as a masterly contribution to the growing writing on Kafka's and other modernist writers' relationships to cinema and modern media culture."  —Lutz Koepnick, author of The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous

Kafka and Noise is an ambitious and exciting addition to the interdisciplinary field of sound studies. Gellen demonstrates exemplary and enlightening close readings of Kafka’s stories in relation to his fascination with sounds—no small feat, considering the vast amount of scholarship on Kafka.” —Stefanie Harris, author of Mediating Modernity: German Literature and the “New” Media, 1895-1930