NICHOLAS DUNGEY – Writing Kafka’s Soul: Disciplinary Power, Resistance & the Authorship of the Subject


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Abstract: Who is the real Kafka? What do his writings really mean? These are the questions that have dominated Kafka scholarship, which has predominantly focused on issues of the author’s identity and the meaning of his writings. As the heirs of a modern metaphysics that posits the existence of an objectively rational and free subject, we – including many Kafka scholars – have generally assumed that there is a true self, that reason enables access to universally verifiable knowledge, and that this subject presupposes and authorises the works of knowledge, art, and cultural productions that bears the subject’s name. It is time to ask, however, whether the metaphysical approach to Kafka and his writings obscured more than it has illuminated? What if, instead, we abandon the metaphysical search for the true Kafka? There is now an emerging postmodern account of Kafka’s subjectivity and the dynamic, discursive relationship between the construction of his subjectivity and the production of his writings. Utilising Foucault’s interrogation of metaphysical subjectivity, I investigate Kafka’s voluminous letters and diaries as the effects of disciplinary power and the vehicles through which resistance to this power is pressed into the service of aesthetic self-creation.

Keywords: Kafka, Foucault, Author Function, Subjectivity, Writing, Disciplinary Power, Literature.