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Bestiarium JudaicumUnnatural Histories of the Jews$
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Jay Geller

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823275595

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823275595.001.0001

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Name That Varmint

Name That Varmint

From Gregor to Josephine

(p.57) Chapter 2 Name That Varmint
Bestiarium Judaicum

Jay Geller

Fordham University Press

This chapter undertakes close readings of Kafka’s first and last published animal narratives, The Metamorphosis and “Josephine the Singer.” It focuses upon the different strategies by which Kafka rendered any species determination of the stories’ protagonists, Gregor Samsa and Josephine (as well as her people), indefinite and how he thereby confronted his prospective readers with the constructedness of both human/animal difference and species essentialism. These works are then seen as interventions, whether effectively or not, against an apparatus that these two constructs conditioned, an apparatus that helped naturalize both Gentile/Jew difference and the violent means sustaining it: the identification of the Jew-Animal. It situates these stories over and against historical and literary associations of Jews with vermin (Ungeziefer) and mice as well as in relation to Kafka’s own encounters with such creatures recorded in his letters and in his posthumously published story “The Burrow.” The chapter also includes a discussion of how at the opening of Maus II Art Spiegelman subverted possible essentialist identification of Jews with mice by his readers.

Keywords:   “Josephine the Singer”, Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis, mouse, representation, resistance strategies, rhetorical analysis, Art Spiegelman, undecidability, Ungeziefer (vermin)

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