Performing Hunger: Fasting in Franz Kafka’s Hunger Artist as Poetic Practice

  • Sabine Wilke
  • Cora L. Wilke-Gray
Part of the Literatures, Cultures, and the Environment book series (LCE)


This chapter builds on material ecocriticism to include poetic issues that frame the entanglement of food and consumption as an ensemble of critical practices in literature. We interpret the economic and semiotic system of capitalism as a cultural phenomenon. On the example of Franz Kafka’s short story “A Hunger Artist” (1924), we show how poetic texts explore themes, places, cultures, and identities through a variety of techniques that are tied to figurative language. With its roots in modernist poetics, Kafka’s text reflects the cultural practice of fasting as an artistic performance on the thematic level and, at the same time, enacts the disruption of consumptive patterns through fasting on the level of poetic meaning.


Food System Literary Text Semiotic System Figurative Language Critical Practice 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabine Wilke
    • 1
  • Cora L. Wilke-Gray
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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