I threw a minor fit on Twitter the other evening over the New York Times article How Nonsense Sharpens the Mind, which reports on a study that claims that experiencing the uncanny, the weird, the absurd, the freaky “may prime the brain to sense patterns it would otherwise miss.” What provoked the outburst on my part was the revelation that the researchers rewrote a Kafka short story for use in their study. Here’s how the reporter Benedict Carey describes it:
In the most recent paper, published last month, Dr. Proulx and Dr. Heine described having 20 college students read an absurd short story based on “The Country Doctor,” by Franz Kafka. The doctor of the title has to make a house call on a boy with a terrible toothache. He makes the journey and finds that the boy has no teeth at all. The horses who have pulled his carriage begin to act up; the boy’s family becomes annoyed; then the doctor discovers the boy has teeth after all. And so on. The story is urgent, vivid and nonsensical — Kafkaesque.
“The Country Doctor” is my favorite Kafka short story and is the piece of literature I have spent the most time with as a critic. I read it and wrote about Continue reading “The many misuses of Kafka and insider knowledge”