Close image of Kafka's face, graphically stylised to match post image
Oxford University is encouraging awareness of the enduring legacy of Franz Kafka through a programme of academic and cultural activities.

Oxford Kafka 2024

A programme of University-wide events and activities will celebrate the literary works and enduring global legacy of Franz Kafka and mark the centenary anniversary of the author’s untimely death

Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924) is widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. 

Oxford University is encouraging awareness of the enduring global legacy of Kafka through a variety of academic and cultural activities for university and public audiences. 

The programme will include a free public exhibition Kafka: Making of an Icon, public installations, talks, dance and theatre, and to mark the 100-year anniversary of Kafka’s death on Monday 3 June, a collective public reading of Metamorphosis will be held at the Sheldonian Theatre.

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian and Director of Gardens, Libraries and Museums at Oxford University, said: ‘100 years after his death, younger generations continue to learn from and be fascinated by Kafka’s life and works – many of which are held in the Bodleian archives. We therefore saw this as a perfect opportunity to celebrate his legacy and enduring influence.’ 

Find out more about the programme of events below... 

Exhibitions

Kafka: Making of an Icon
30 May–27 October, 2024
ST Lee Gallery, Weston Library
Free admission
Find out more: Kafka: Making of an Icon | Visit the Bodleian Libraries (ox.ac.uk)

Post to accompany free exhibition at the Weston, Kafka: Making of an IconKafka: Making of an Icon exhibition
Kafka: Making of an Icon marks the 100th anniversary of the author’s death, celebrating not only his achievements and creativity but also how he continues to inspire new literary, theatrical and cinematic creations around the world.

The exhibition will feature materials from the archives of the Bodleian Libraries, which hold the majority of Franz Kafka's papers, including literary notebooks, drawings, diaries, letters, postcards, glossaries, and photographs. Notably, the notebooks in the archive include the original manuscripts of two of Kafka’s unfinished novels, Das Schloss (The Castle) and Der Verschollene (America), as well as a number of short stories.

Using this rich archive, the exhibition not only sets Kafka in the context of his life and times but also shows how his own experiences nourished his imagination. His notebooks show how his travels in Western Europe enabled him to practise descriptive writing, while his readings strengthened his fascination with remote spaces and made him aware of European colonialism.

Metamorphosis
11 May–29 June, 2024
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
A pop-up exhibition titled Metamorphosis will be held at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Special events

Banner including images of Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University and Oxford Reads Kafka square branding side by sideOxford Reads Kafka will include a large-scale, collective public reading of Metamorphosis at the Sheldonian Theatre

Public readings
Monday 3 June, 2024 (6pm-7.30pm)
Sheldonian Theatre
For tickets and further information, please visit: Oxford Reads Kafka | Visit the Bodleian Libraries

To mark the 100-year anniversary of Kafka’s death on Monday 3 June, a large-scale, collective public reading of Metamorphosis will be held at the Sheldonian Theatre, involving notable literary figures, representatives from a range of student societies and SU leaders.  

Talks

Four Oxford professors have created a lecture and events programme exploring Kafka’s legacy from their different disciplinary perspectives. Professor Karen Leeder (Humanities) will focus on Kafka’s writing and legacy, questions of race and his sense of humour. Professor Eben Kirksey (Social Sciences) will focus on Kafka and disability. Professor Tim Coulson  (Life Sciences) will focus on Kafka and insects. Professor Helen McShane (Medical Sciences) will focus on Kafka as a sufferer of tuberculosis.  

Insects and the Psychology of Disgust and Repulsion
Thursday 23 May, 7pm-8pm
Oxford University Museum of Natural History 
Panel discussion: Humans have a widely held disgust for insects. Is this disgust innate, or even universal? Are there good evolutionary reasons for it? Or is it just learnt behaviour? And how did Franz Kafka exploit this sense of disgust so successfully in Metamorphosis?
Find out more and book tickets: Insects and the Psychology of Disgust and Repulsion | Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The Art of Hunger: Kafka and Eating in the Modern Age 
Thursday 30 May, 4pm-5pm 
Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library 

CRISPR Gene Editing and Metamorphosis: a panel discussion 
Monday 3 June, 10am-11am 
Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library

'Time traveling with Gregor Samsa, or what you can do with six legs' a keynote address on disability with Professor Rosemarie Garland Thomson 
Monday 3 June, 2pm-3pm    
Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library   
A keynote lecture from prominent disability scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson Accompanying this lecture will be a site-specific installation by artist Tessa Farmer.

Extraordinary Bodies, Disability Justice, and Metamorphosis: a panel discussion 
Tuesday 4 June, 10am-11am 
Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library  

Display and talk on insects by entomologist Dr George McGavin 
Wednesday 5 June, all day  
Oxford University Museum of Natural History 

Monstrosities and Metamorphosis in More-Than-Human Worlds
Wednesday 5 June, 2pm-3.30pm 
Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library 

Tuberculosis: vaccines, diagnostics and experience 
Wednesday 5 June, 6pm-7pm 
Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library 
Professor Helen McShane and the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, a partnership between the OUH NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Oxford, will focus on Kafka as a sufferer of TB. The session will cover vaccines (Helen McShane), diagnostics (Philip Fowler) and a TB patient will share their experience with the disease.

Franz Kafka and the Truths of Leadership - 'In Conversation' with the author Leah Tomkins with LBC Journalist Shelagh Fogarty 
Friday 7 June, 5pm-7pm 
Chen Kar Sun Digital Hub, Jesus College 

Dance and Theatre

May 10-12
Kafka's Ape and Words and Music 
Old Fire Station, Oxford
Two theatre productions, Kafka's Ape and Words and Music (presented by The Oxford Research Centre In The Humanities, TORCH) will be shown at the Old Fire Station in Oxford on May 10-12. Kafka’s Ape is Phala O. Phala’s award-winning adaptation of Kafka’s short story ‘A Report to an Academy’ featuring a solo performance by Tony Miyambo. EIFF Michael Powell Award winner Ed Gaughan also presents his comedy show Words and Music. These two award-winning shows translate Kafka's dark parable of un-belonging for the modern day. Kafka's story 'A Report for an Academy' finds its way into blistering explorations of race and migration, and grownup reflections on aging and humanimal agency, while at the same time metamorphosing prose into drama and stand-up comedy. This will be Kafka as you've never seen or heard him before. There will be a post Kafka's Ape talk on May 12 (8pm-10pm).

June (dates tbc)
Arthur Pita’s A Hunger Artist 

Old Fire Station, Oxford
Starring Edward Watson, Meow Meow and Frank Moon. Produced by the Oxford Cultural Programme in association with The Royal Ballet and Oxford Kafka Research Centre. Please check back for further details.

Street event

Theatre company Trigger and the Oxford Cultural Programme will present Jitterbug, an interactive street event in central Oxford between May 31 and June 4. Location TBC. Please check back for further details.

Music

  • May 24 (6pm-10pm): Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective concert at the Sheldonian, Oxford from 7.30pm with a pre-concert talk at 6pm. (Organised by the Cultural Programme.)
  • October 12: Kafka at the Oxford International Song Festival. Morning: ‘Kafka’s Prague’. Public lecture by Professor Carolin Duttlinger; lunchtime concert: world premiere, Can Bilir, Missed Songs of Josefine; Late night concert, New College, Kurtág, Kafka Fragments. (Organised by the Oxford Kafka Research Centre.)

Book releases

Other events

  • Inaugural Annual Social Science Division EDI Lecture: Professor Rosemarie Garland Thomson (June 6, Weston Library).
  • Conference: Kafka Transformed (please note the audience for this event is academic/students): Kafka Transformed international conference with podium discussion at Wadham College. Launch of the newly formed Global Kafka Network, which will connect scholars and artists from around the world. (Organised by the Oxford Kafka Research Centre, September 18-20.) 
  • A number of events will be held in London: Still to come is a reading and panel discussion of 'A Cage went in Search of a Bird: Ten Kafkaesque Stories', which has been organised by the Oxford Kafka Research Centre at the Southbank Centre in London, June 2.
 

Please check back regularly for further updates on the events listed above.