Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Mark Leiderman

Second Advisor

Rimgaila Salys

Third Advisor

Helmut Muller-Sievers

Abstract

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) is known for his dense, surreal fiction that engages extensively with philosophical figures and concepts. His literary method of experimental realism brings abstract ideas to concrete life, exploring conceptual frameworks in fantastic allegory. This theoretically rich and historically oriented method resonates strikingly with Walter Benjamin's analysis of allegory in his Trauerspiel; reading them together, we can gain a clearer sense of Krzhizhanovsky's critical dimensions. This project narrows in specifically on the use of allegory in his interactions with the works of Immanuel Kant, often made to stand in for the Enlightenment project broadly conceived. Taking up three stories that illustrate the breadth of his engagement with Kant, this project closely reads the connections Krzhizhanovsky draws between the Kantian worldview and the catastrophic violence of the twentieth century. In reading his allegorical interactions with Kant through a Benjaminian lens, we see that Krzhizhanovsky is centrally concerned with the violent potential at the heart of the intellectual foundations of modernity. Tracing the decay of reason and Kantian subjectivity, Krzhizhanovsky presents the Enlightenment impulse as akin to a ruinous disease transforming humanity into a society of zombies.

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