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The Imperative to WriteDestitutions of the Sublime in Kafka, Blanchot and Beckett$
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Jeff Fort

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823254699

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823254699.001.0001

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The Ecstasy of Judgment

The Ecstasy of Judgment

(p.58) Chapter 2 The Ecstasy of Judgment
The Imperative to Write

Jeff Fort

Fordham University Press

This chapter provides detailed readings of three of Kafka’s “judgment stories”: “The Judgment,” “The Metamorphosis,” and “The Stoker.” These readings reveal that Kafka compulsively stages judgment scenes in which the protagonist fails to speak in his own defense and is condemned to death and exile, in ways that foreground the fictive and performative aspects of speech. But where Kafka’s protagonists fail at self-defense, suffering bodily and social abjection as a result, Kafka as a writer “succeeds” in emerging, ecstatically, as a text. A parallel is discerned between the power wielded in speech within the story and its manifestation, and undoing, at the level of its writing. It is further shown that this paradoxical movement involves, at the level of narrative scenography, the production of corpses and abjected bodies that constitute the limit of sublimity and power implicit in the logic of the judgment narratives. It is suggested that this repetitive working over of judged bodies and ejected corpses is part of an ongoing attempt on Kafka’s part to dismantle the logic of power that governs his writing during this phase.

Keywords:   Franz Kafka, “The Judgment”, “The Metamorphosis”, “The Stoker”, judgment, self-defense, performative speech, corpse, abjection

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