Still Reading Kafka? On Language, Literature, Friendship, and Identity in Central Europe

Date and time

Starts on Tuesday, May 21 · 6:30 EDT


Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street New York, NY 10011

About this event

About the Lecture

Still reading Kafka? On Language, Literature, Friendship, and Identity in Central Europe

To pick up and read the novels or short stories of Franz Kafka hardly needs justification. His standing as one of the last century’s most important writers is assured. The question is: What can Kafka’s writings and the various contexts in which his life transpired—linguistic, familial, cultural, and political—reveal about the textures of Jewish life in Central Europe at the turn of the century? In the 65th Annual Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture, Hillel Kieval (Washington University in St. Louis) revisits crucial aspects of Kafka’s life, work, and intellectual relationships, to explore what it meant to be both Jewish and a citizen of Prague before and after the First World War.

Hillel J. Kieval is the Gloria M. Goldstein Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and Thought at Washington University in St. Louis. Over the course of his career, he has held visiting appointments at Charles University in Prague, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Universidad Hebraica in Mexico City, Vilnius University in Lithuania, and the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Hillel Kieval’s research interests focus on Jewish culture and society in Central and East-Central Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They range from pathways of Jewish acculturation and integration to the impact of nationalism and ethnic conflict on modern Jewish identities, and from cross-cultural conflicts and misunderstandings to the discursive practices of modern antisemitism. His books include Blood Inscriptions: Science, Modernity, and Ritual Murder at Europe’s Fin de Siècle (2022); Prague and Beyond: Jews in the Bohemian Lands (co-editor, 2022); Languages of Community: The Jewish Experience in the Czech Lands (2000); and The Making of Czech Jewry: National Conflict and Jewish Society in Bohemia, 1870–1918 (1988). In May 2022, Prof. Kieval was awarded the Silver Medal of the Faculty of Arts, from the Charles University of Prague.

Endowed by Marianne C. Dreyfus and Family, the descendants of Rabbi Leo Baeck

Please note that by registering for this event, you are opting into communications from the Leo Baeck Institute.

Above: Portrait of Franz Kafka, LBI Franz Kafka Collection AR 1429.


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