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Reading Kafka & Beckett in the light of irony

Kalinowski, Gregor McIver (2003) Reading Kafka & Beckett in the light of irony. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94453) (KAR id:94453)

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My thesis has a double-focus: what began as a comparative study of Kafka and Beckett as ironists, became increasingly diverted with the subject of irony

itself. This development led to a theoretical engagement from which I emerged with a clearer sense of what I had always presumed, that dealing with irony involves a range of hermeneutic problems akin to problems encountered reading Kafka and Beckett. What I had not anticipated was the extent to which irony solicits this engagement. These mutually informing hermeneutic concerns assist in the tracing out and extending of pre-existing comparative commentary on Kafka and Beckett.

Perhaps inevitably, given the well-known links between Kafka and Kierkegaard, my companion text in irony is Kierkegaard’s thesis 'The Concept of Irony'. The link to Kafka should not detract from the fact that Kierkegaard necessarily pops up in any serious reading in irony. Through Kierkegaard I became acquainted with some of Kierkegaard’s more recent readers — of particular mention here is Sylviane Agacinski’s reading (in Aparté: Conceptions and Deaths o f Soren Kierkegaard) of The Concept o f Irony in the light of late twentieth-century theoretical developments. It was through Agacinski that I found I was not bound to decide between the various views of irony encountered in my reading, but that these constituted a spectrum or filter of points of view corresponding to a movement in irony itself.

Thus conceived, irony provides the means for telling Kafka and Beckett apart in a differential filter of readings. More than this, however, this movement only ever marks the beginning of irony’s movement, yet participates in the promise of a further movement. This preserves that priceless, albeit risky, nub of not reading which lies at irony’s source, and the questionable advantage of not theorizing too systematically about Kafka and Beckett — which inevitably remains, folly or not, an essential factor behind the choice of irony in the first place.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94453
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Kafka; Beckett
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PT German literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2022 13:41 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 14:20 UTC
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