“Ich, von dem du ausgingst?” Inheritance and Anamorphosis between Freytag and Kafka

Erica Weitzman


This article reads Kafka’s 1912 short story “Das Urteil” against—and potentially, as a response to—Gustav Freytag’s bestselling saga of German mercantilism and middle-class advancement, the 1855 novel Soll und Haben. Placing these two texts in juxtaposition to one another (and in contrast to related intertexts by James Joyce and Max Brod) in the context of Kafka’s well-known practices of pastiche, the article shows how Kafka’s story structurally inverts particular aspects of Freytag’s novel, upsetting the expectations and roles that Freytag’s popular bourgeois Bildungsroman assumes or tendentiously seeks to naturalize. Kafka’s story thus not only intervenes in the infamously racialized (not to say racist) hierarchies of Soll und Haben’s universe, but also destabilizes the identificatory, edifying, and inculcating practices of reading that Freytag’s novel, as a paradigmatic text of German realism, implicitly demands. (EW)

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