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Unit information: From Judgement to Trial: Selected Works by Franz Kafka in 2020/21

Unit name From Judgement to Trial: Selected Works by Franz Kafka
Unit code GERM20049
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Pinfold
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Unit is available as an open unit subject to sufficient (A-level or equivalent) knowledge of German.

A son who unquestioningly carries out the death sentence pronounced on him by his father; a man who is arrested ‘without having done anything wrong’: Kafka’s depictions of helpless individuals caught up in intricate and opaque mechanisms of justice have lost nothing of their power since they were first published in the early twentieth century. In this unit we will first undertake close readings of a selection of Kafka’s shorter fiction dealing with the topic of the law, guilt and punishment (‘Vor dem Gesetz’, ‘Das Urteil’ and ‘In der Strafkolonie’). In addition to developing their personal response to these texts, students will be encouraged to explore multiple critical perspectives on the stories as a means of enhancing their understanding of Kafka’s works and of learning to evaluate critically the scholarship they read. This work will lay the foundations for the second half of the unit, which will focus on the novel Der 'Proceß, 'Kafka’s fullest exploration of the themes of guilt and justice. The unit will be taught through a mixture of informal lectures, seminar discussions, for which students will prepare in advance with the aid of worksheets, and small group work.

The unit aims

  • to introduce students to a prominent figure in German and indeed world literature;
  • to develop students’ language skills through the close reading of set texts;
  • to develop students’ ability and confidence in developing a personal response to literary texts by engaging closely with both primary and secondary literature;
  • to develop students’ ability to evaluate multiple critical perspectives;
  • to develop students’ ability to present their ideas in a structured manner, both orally and in writing;
  • to develop students’ ability to work in teams towards a common goal;
  • to provide students with a solid foundation for future work in German Studies and related disciplines

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, successful students will be able to:

1. analyse the contents and context of selected German narrative texts, read in the original (or, where appropriate, in translation);

2. critically evaluate selected works of scholarship, to a level appropriate to Level I;

3. work in teams to present primary and secondary literature in clear, concise written form;

4. make confident and critical use of secondary literature to support and develop their own written interpretations of the set texts, as appropriate to Level I;

5. confidently interpret literary texts in a nuanced and academic manner, as appropriate to Level I.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Details

1. One group wiki page, to be written in English (4,000 words max)

  • Each group member will produce a max 500-word summary of ONE critical approach for an individual mark (25%) ILO 2
  • The group will work collaboratively to contextualise the chosen story and the critical approaches for a joint mark (15%) ILOs 1 and 3

2. One 2,000-word essay (60%) ILOs 1, 4 and 5

Reading and References

Franz Kafka, Die Erzählungen und andere ausgewählte Prosa, ed. Roger Hermes (FTV)

Franz Kafka, Der Proceß in the Originalfassung (FTV)

Jeremy Adler, Franz Kafka (London: Penguin, 2001)

Carolin Duttlinger, The Cambridge 'Introduction to' Franz Kafka (Cambridge: CUP, 2013)

Clayton Koelb, Kafka: A Guide 'for the Perplexed (New York / London: Continuum, 2010)