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Great Books Stream #6 – Kafka on Animal Consciousness

Sun, 8/26, 11amPT – featuring @tldr, @grace, @ted, @aaina, @timdaub, @seanhart and more


Sunday 8/27, 11amPT / 2pmET –>

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"A Report for an Academy" by Franz Kafka

Text (8 pages, complete story)

Preview of Passage

“Esteemed Gentlemen of the Academy!

You show me the honour of calling upon me to submit a report to the Academy concerning my previous life as an ape.

In this sense, unfortunately, I cannot comply with your request. Almost five years separate me from my existence as an ape, a short time perhaps when measured by the calendar, but endlessly long to gallop through, as I have done, at times accompanied by splendid men, advice, applause, and orchestral music, but basically alone..."

We all know Kafka for showing us what it would be like for a human consciousness to turn into a non-human consciousness (The Metamorphasis). In this short story starring the speech-capable ape named Red Peter, Kafka explores what it would be like for an animal consciousness to become human.

The story is strange and illuminating, and allows us to ask questions like: What is it to be an animal? To be human? What might the emergence of human consciousness in evolution look like? What does is the root of assimilation? What is culture?

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To read about the Great Books Stream series as a whole, visit the introductory note.