Brings Kafka’s fiction into conversation with philosophy and political theory.
Many of Kafka's narratives place their heroes in situations of confinement. Gregor Samsa is locked in his room in the Metamorphosis, and the land surveyor in The Castle is stuck in the village unable either to leave or to gain access to the castle. Dimitris Vardoulakis argues that Kafka constructs these plots of confinement in order to laugh at his heroes' futile attempts to express their will. In this way, Kafka emerges as a critic of the free will and as a proponent of a different kind of freedom: one focused within the confines of one's experience and mediated by one's circumstances. Vardoulakis contends that his sense of humor is the key to understanding Kafka as a political thinker. Laughter, in this account, is the tool used to deconstruct power. By placing Kafka in dialogue with philosophy and political theory, Vardoulakis shows that Kafka can give us invaluable insights into how to be free—and how to laugh.
Dimitris Vardoulakis is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Western Sydney University, Australia. He has written and edited several books, including (with Andrew Benjamin) Sparks Will Fly: Benjamin and Heidegger, also published by SUNY Press.
". ..very highly recommended. " — Midwest Book Review
"Vardoulakis's original new book contributes to the fields of Kafka studies, political theory, and contemporary European philosophy by forcefully realigning our understanding of the problem of freedom and the free will as it traverses Kafka's literary texts. Its greatest strength lies in its careful and rigorous exposition of the refractory concepts of freedom that circulate through Kafka's most canonical works. " — Gerhard Richter, author of Inheriting Walter Benjamin
"Freedom from the Free Will is at the forefront of a vibrant new development in Kafka studies that, without succumbing to old debates about Kafka's supposed 'religiosity,' rigorously works out the philosophical undercurrents and theoretical consequences of his literary practices. The laughing, playful Kafka encountered in Vardoulakis's book creates concepts of freedom that cannot be found elsewhere. " — Peter Fenves, author of The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time