St John's College Oxford

Bringing Kafka’s 'The Castle' to life

Date 5 June 2018

To celebrate publication of the new critical edition of Franz Kafka’s final, unfinished novel 'Das Schloss' (The Castle) St John’s Fellow in German, Barry Murnane and Carolin Duttlinger of Wadham College hosted a day of schools outreach activities, student workshops and an evening podium discussion on the writer's legacy.

The day-long event on 1 June brought together Professors Carolin Duttlinger, Barry Murnane and Ritchie Robertson of the Oxford Kafka Research Centre, Roland Reuß of the Institut für Textkritik, Heidelberg and award-winning playwright Ed Harris, who recently adapted the novel for BBC Radio 4. 

German Study Day for Year 12 pupils: Bringing Kafka's 'Castle' to lifeAlongside Ruth MacDonald from the Access and Admissions Office, Professors Murnane and Duttlinger welcomed 20 students in Year 12 from schools across England and Wales to a Kafka-themed German Study Day. This included an academic session on dramatic adaptations of Kafka’s novel, an introduction to Modern Languages at Oxford by tutors and students, and tours of St John’s and Wadham. 

Professor Murnane said: ‘The students seemed to really enjoy the format. We explained to them that they were part of a day of events and that we would be presenting their work to an audience of experts later in the day. It was great to be able to involve them so closely in our current research.’

The students gave very positive feedback too: 

  • ‘I really enjoyed my visit to Oxford: it was a lot friendlier than I thought it would be. I felt very free to speak and very unintimidated.’
  • ‘The workshop on Kafka’s The Castle gave me a real insight into what learning at Oxford is really like. Very inclusive and encouraging. It was certainly a privilege to meet with playwright Ed Harris.’
  • ‘My favourite part of the visit was the Q&A session with the students because it gave us a first-hand experience of studying German at Oxford. I also enjoyed the tours of Wadham and St John’s, as they allowed us to see what life at Oxford would be like.’

We also hosted over 30 Oxford undergraduates and graduates in German for morning and afternoon workshops on the editing and adaptation of literary works, using Roland Reuß’s new edition and Ed Harris’s radio play as examples. 

The day concluded with a well-attended public podium discussion in the Garden Quad Auditorium, with Professors Duttlinger, Murnane and Robertson alongside Roland Reuß of the FKA Historical-Critical Kafka Edition, and Ed Harris. ‘With Oxford German Studies looking to build up to the centenary of Kafka’s death in 2024, this was an ideal opportunity to discuss Kafka’s legacy and importance today. It is astonishing how relevant Kafka’s discussions of bureaucracy and social life in The Castle still are, and it was exciting for the audience to hear about Ed Harris’s experiences in introducing Kafka to new audiences with his audio play’, said Professor Murnane. 

German Study Day June 2018