Tuesday, March 18, 2014

(Abridged) Biography of Franz Kafka

"So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being." ~Franz Kafka
 As a brief prelude to the actual biography of a very interesting individual, I would like to present this quote as proof of how wonderful he is. I agree with this quote so very much. Food is basically one of my favorite things in the world. I know it has a deeper meaning beyond some middle-class white girl enjoying eating things, but...seeing as that's what I am that is how I plan on interpreting this quote. Anyway. I really like him so far, but that might change as I find out more about him. So...on to actual informative information!

Kafka was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Germany. His two brothers died before he was six, but he had three sisters. Their names were Gabriele, Valerie, and Ottilie. His parents were not often home. His first language was German, but he was fluent in Czech as well. He was educated at an all-boys elementary school, and his Jewish education did not extend beyond his bar mitzvah at thirteen and going to synagogue occasionally. He went to university and got his degree as a Doctor of Law.

In his adult life, Kafka was engaged twice to a woman named Felice Bauer, but their relationship ended in 1917. Also in 1917, he got tuberculosis, so he was having many problems with his health and relied upon his family to support him. He developed a relationship with Milena Jesensk√°, and then he moved to Berlin to get away from his family's influence and focus on his writing. There, he lived with Dora Diaman, who became his lover as well. She was also Jewish. Kafka suffered from clinical depression and social anxiety, but that didn't stop him from being able to get a job at a big Italian insurance company.

Kafka's influence was widespread. He wrote Metamorphosis, which is still being read and analyzed today as an accurate representation of today's society. He was against his father's materialism, and that influenced his books as a portrayal of how he felt. Materialism is still a big issue we face in the world today. His works were written decades ahead of their time and address issues that are more prevalent in the worlds of today than ever. 

On June 3, 1924, Franz Kafka died due to his affliction of tuberculosis. He was buried with his parents in a Jewish cemetery in Prague. There was nothing written on his tombstone, but Milena Jesensk√° wrote about him, "He wrote the most significant works of modern German literature, which reflect the irony and prophetic vision of a man condemned to see the world with such blinding clarity that he found it unbearable and went to his death." That is about the best sendoff he could have received, unless he had written it himself.

"Franz Kafka." - Biography and Works. Search Texts, Read Online. Discuss. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.
"Franz Kafka Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
"Kafka's Life (1883-1924)." The Kafka Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.

Monday, March 17, 2014

For In That Sleep Of Death...

What Dreams May Come pulls a lot of inspiration from Dante's Inferno. Hell itself is very similar to how Dante described it. Everything is dark and fiery and highly unpleasant. It's also a similar story, how someone goes into hell with every intention and ability to get back out, who has a soulmate to find and has a guide to lead him and explain how everything works. The movie has some very clever allusions to Dante, like the gate of hell. The gate has a big boat marooned outside, and a river they have to cross to reach hell itself. The big boat is a gigantic destroyed battleship, with everything on fire and lots of people strewn about around it. They're not dead, but it seems that they can't get up. There is also a blank banner, like how it is in the vestibule of Dante's hell. Back to the ship. The giant boat is called "Cerberus", and like in Inferno, it guards the gates. Another clever way to bring in some of Dante's ideas is the way that there is a specific place for everyone in hell, but the punishments are varied and quite personalized. When Chris finds his wife, she is stuck face-up in the dirt, in a sea of faces. This is like the punishment in Canto XIX, where Simoniacs are buried head first in the ground with only their feet sticking out. In the movie, the punishment is reversed, but it was very similar to Inferno.

Something done very well in What Dreams May Come but not as well done in Inferno is symbolism. Now, hold on. In Inferno there is a TON of symbolism. It was just a bit heavy-handed. Like, the Pope is mentioned twelve kajillion times in hell because Dante didn't like him. And there are all these famous people in hell, also because Dante had issues with them. And he talks to all of them to prove how much better he is, and that he can get out of hell. Cos he's just too cool.  In What Dreams May Come, everything was more subtle and subdued. It was all about the colors, that quick shot, the feelings from the scenes. For example, everything with death had purple. When the children were killed, their dad waved goodbye surrounded by purple flowers. Before Chris died, he had a purple painting with him. In heaven and in hell, all of the flashbacks were accompanied by a flash of white and purplish light. And when Annie commits suicide, she is wearing purple pajamas. Everything in hell is dark, red and black and brown. Everything in heaven is bright and happy, golds and blues and reds. Especially when Chris is in the painting. Everything is gorgeous there. Every single shot of the movie has symbols and meaning to it, but it was done tastefully, unlike Inferno. But that is just personal opinion.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Still in Hell

Second week of Canto presentations. This week we went over Cantos 19-32. Anyway, I went this week. My Canto is the second half of the fraudulent counselors area, which is circle 8, malebolge 8, Canto 27. Anyway, it was actually a really...well, not fun per se, but it wasn't as terrible as it could have been. And...dare I say...I actually enjoyed it just a little? I feel like I'll lose my teenager card if I admit to enjoying a school project. So, anyway. My Canto is fraudulent counselors, and their punishment is to burn for eternity in a flame that fits perfectly to their body. The contrapasso is that they are being literally burned, just like they burned others figuratively in life. In my Canto, there were a TON of places mentioned. Like, the entire thing was basically cities and the current news about them. It was a bit boring, especially for somewhere that people were on fire. Guido da Montefeltro was in this Canto for giving bad advice to the Pope, and what's sad is that he only did it because the Pope said that he would be absolved of that sin and could go to heaven, but the a dark angel said that since he couldn't repent for something he wasn't sorry for he was going to hell. I feel really bad for Guido, but he did do something wrong, so he did sort of deserve to go to hell and burn for eternity. Sort of. Also, I am very proud of my visual for my project. I digitally drew a picture of a hand holding a burning match, and that represented how by giving someone bad advice you strike a match to burn them, but then the firs reaches your hand and it burns you later as well.

The other Cantos that were this week happened to be my friends' Cantos, so I'll talk about those next. Emily did Canto 18, which was panderers and flatterers (AKA pimps and seducers). The panderers were forced to run back and forth while being lashed by horned demons on either side of them and the flatterers were immersed in a pool of human excrement representing their words. Ew, in a word. That seems quite horrific, and I find that to be fitting for the crime. I can't stand people who lie and suck up to people to make them better liked. So they deserve to sit in a bunch of waste forever. Lydia's Canto sort of goes with this in that the punishment fits the crime. She had Canto 24, and in her Canto were thieves. They were bitten by snakes, and wherever they were bitten they burst into flames. Again, ew. That just sounds really gross. I don't really see the contrapasso here, except that maybe thieves get their bodies stolen from them over and over as they regenerate from the snake bites only to die again...? I don't know. There weren't really any interesting people in the Canto either. Well, I'm sure they were interesting, I've just never heard of them before this, so I personally don't care all that much about them. The only exciting thing that happens is that Dante freaks out because he doesn't like snakes and then he doesn't want to walk anymore because things are getting truly horrific. Which brings us to Canto 28, Sarah Fowle's Canto. In her Canto, people who split others apart get their just deserts and are split in various ways themselves, depending on the extremity of their crime. And sheesh, why is everything so disgusting? Like seriously, one dude got his head cut off because he was such a bad person. Others lost their hands or maybe just got themselves cut open but not completely disembowled. Lucky them! Anyway, I didn't really have a good idea of what "schism" was before seeing this Canto presented, and now I think I sort of do. Her visual was really cool. It was a Ferris wheel with popsicle sticks colored in various degrees of black to represent how the sinners walked around in a big circle, got attacked by the demon, and then slowly healed only to be sliced apart again. This project was overall very interesting to say the least, and I am looking forward to seeing the last few Cantos tomorrow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Reflection of Hell

Over the past week, we've had to sit through presentations on different Cantos of hell. We've gotten through Cantos 1-18. The first few were fairly straightforward; Dante is feeling lost, and then he enters hell itself. This combined with the overall feeling of winter and exhaustion probably contributed to my feeling a bit like I am drowning, but that's okay. We are in hell, after all. Anyway, Canto 5 was pretty interesting due to the people in it, and someone in that Canto's son was referenced in my Canto, so that's pretty cool. It's a bit of a stretch, but there's still a connection. Also, we had two absences, so the class did not see either Canto 8 or 13. But it was really interesting to learn about all of the different Cantos and what was in them

Today we talked about Cantos 14 through 18. 14, 15, 16, and 17 were all in basically the same part of hell, and then 18 was the first one in the 8th circle. 14 was a transition one and also kind of an overview Canto, and then 15, 16, and 17 were the three different sins in the area that was gone over in 14. Those three sins were blasphemers, sodomites, and usurers. Then Geryon arrives and takes Virgil and Dante into the 8th circle, which is at the end of Canto 17. It is getting to the point where it is almost difficult to listen to what the punishments are for the people in the lower circles of hell. What is happening to them is truly terrible, and I wouldn't wish that upon anyone for eternity. Even the people that deserve to be punished like that should serve their time and then get out of there once they have repented. I can only imagine how horrible the rest of the Cantos are going to be. Mine is one of the lowest, and it's not that bad. So maybe it won't be overly awful.