Different Interpretations of the Theme in Kafka's Hunger Artist

Topics: Franz Kafka, Existentialism, The Metamorphosis Pages: 35 (13101 words) Published: April 11, 2011
Different interpreting on the theme of A hunger Artist
“A Hunger Artist Gallery's name derives from a short story by Franz Kafka and, as with artists today, Kafka's ‘hunger artist’ struggles for recognition and understanding within society. As a contemporary gallery we support ‘visual hunger artists’ in their universal inquiry about their modern world, helping to bridge the gap between the general public and the current art scene • What are some possible symbolic interpretations of the hunger artist? the impresario? How do you interpet the panther that replaces the dead artist at the end of “A Hunger Artist”? • Why is fasting such a powerful symbolic art form? What are some of the “hungers” that it might represent? • Shortly before he dies, the hunger artist declares that his art shouldn’t be admired. Why not? What do you make of his explanation that he simply couldn’t find the foot that he liked? What “food” might have satisfied him?

Major themes
There is a sharp division among critical interpretations of "A Hunger Artist." Most commentators concur that the story is an allegory, but they disagree as to what is represented. Some critics[who?], pointing to the hunger artist's asceticism, regard him as a saintly or even Christ-like figure. In support of this view they emphasize the unworldliness of the protagonist, the priest-like quality of the watchers, and the traditional religious significance of the forty-day period. Other critics[who?] insist that "A Hunger Artist" is an allegory of the misunderstood artist, whose vision of transcendence and artistic excellence is rejected or ignored by the public. This interpretation is sometimes joined with a reading of the story as autobiographical. According to this view, this story, written near the end of Kafka's life, links the hunger artist with the author as an alienated artist who is dying. Whether the protagonist's starving is seen as spiritual or artistic, the panther is regarded as the hunger artist's antithesis: satisfied and contented, the animal's corporeality stands in marked contrast to the hunger artist's ethereality. A final interpretive division surrounds the issue of whether "A Hunger Artist" is meant to be read ironically. Some critics[who?] consider the story a sympathetic depiction of a misunderstood artist who seeks to rise above the merely animal parts of human nature (represented by the panther) and who is confronted with uncomprehending audiences. Others[who?] regard it as Kafka's ironic comment on artistic pretensions. The hunger artist comes to symbolize a joy deprived man who shows no exuberance and the panther who replaces him obviously is meant to show a sharp contrast of the two. Still at least one interpretation is that Kafka is expressing the world's indifference to his own artistic scruples, through the plight of the hunger artist.[1] Many professors of literature would prefer that I not group Kafka among the existentialists. After all, here was a man who was not a trained philosopher or disciplined writer. Kafka never indicated that he was expressing a deep philosophical theory in his aphorisms. But, when you consider the time, place, and nature of Kafka — then you see an existentialist. This exploration of Kafka is included among my Web of pages because Jean-Paul Sartre recognized him as an existentialist and Albert Camus considered him an absurdist. If Sartre and Camus considered Kafka a like-minded writer, that’s good enough for me. Franz Kafka was the writer I most wanted to emulate as a student. While I cannot read his works in their original forms, the English translations are striking. The writing is simple and ironic, yet it demonstrates a complex wit. You find yourself smiling — but never laughing — at the humor he injects within tales of isolation, injustice, and cruelty. As I attempted to evolve my own style, I found Kafka, Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, and the other writers I admired all possessed the same dark wit....
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