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Title: Tightropes and tripwires : a Buddhist interpretation of suffering through attachment in Kafka's work
Author: Cerase, Damian Saverio
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 6273
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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The aim of the dissertation is to challenge perceptions of Kafka’s work as negative by developing more constructive readings of the accounts of suffering and abandonment which form an undeniable feature of his writing. The term ‘Kafkaesque’ is now in widespread use to indicate a situation or event characterised by frustration and torment, but this designation paints an unnecessarily bleak picture of Kafka’s fictional landscapes. One path towards a brighter view of his art is offered by Buddhism, which puts suffering at the centre of its philosophy and yet develops a positive spiritual outlook on life. It does so by giving clear reasons for suffering based on natural causes, leaving no room for mysterious or irresistible forces. From a Buddhist standpoint, the most formidable barrier to alleviating suffering is not presented by a powerful Court or an impregnable Castle, but by the human self or – more precisely – attachment to self. The Buddhist approach to Kafka reads his works in two complementary ways, for content (information) and form (expression). The first examines the close parallels between key Buddhist teachings (such as on suffering and emptiness) and predominant themes from Kafka’s writing (such as futile quests after recognition and justice); the second explores the gaps and paradoxes that confront Kafka’s characters and readers, and measures them against the absurd, nonsensical utterances (koans) used by Zen masters to nonplus their students and loosen their dependency on conventional modes of thinking. In this way, it will be shown that the suffering Kafka describes so relentlessly can be traced back to personal attachments rather than intervention by external agencies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available