Walking in Kafka’s Space Boots: Questions of Mobility and Stability in a Modern Landscape

By Marcella Livi.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, modernist writers followed
modernity’s wide-ranging and broadly-based transformation of space and
took up spatiality as a subject to be reckoned with. As scholars such as Georg
Simmel and Walter Benjamin argue, spatial maladies and discomfort are
concepts that emerge with modernity and its reorganization of space. These
notions are indicative of the reasoning that dominated the modern period,
flooding human consciousness, as Georg Simmel memorably recounted, with
the intensity of the inescapable urban experience. Hence, the experience of
space becomes urbanized independently of where a person finds him or
herself. The world becomes city-like, infusing all places with a metropolitan
mind-set that restructures its engagement with places and people. It is in this
environment and time that Franz Kafka writes and creates his convoluted,
resistant, and live spatial landscapes. I choose to engage specific works by
Franz Kafka—such as “The Trial” and “Wedding Preparations in the Country”—in order to demonstrate how the spaces that modern people traverse are
similar to Kafka’s descriptions in their manner of spatial orientation; places
and people are psychologically intertwined in a dance, which directs them in
their paths. This movement is, however, at the same time halted and/or
diverted by the very surfaces that people encounter. Space is alive, assisting
or rejecting those who travel and move within it. In this essay I will focus my
analysis on the question of mobility in the spaces that we encounter through
our daily travelling and commuting. My paper will aim to highlight and convey
the similarity between the existent spatial unease and the spatial anxiety
portrayed by Franz Kafka’s fiction.

Keywords: Modernity, Transformation of Space, Mobility, Spatial Orientation

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.93-100. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 726.312KB).

Dr. Marcella Livi

Teaching Assistant, Graduate Student, Department of German, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA

Marcella received her M.A. in German in 2009 and her Ph.D. in German in 2012 at the University of California, Davis. Marcella’s research interest focused on the theoretical analysis of spatial organization in Kafka’s works, as well as the significance and perception of the feminine within that context.