Apocalyptic FuturesMarked Bodies and the Violence of the Text in Kafka, Conrad, and Coetzee

Apocalyptic FuturesMarked Bodies and the Violence of the Text in Kafka, Conrad, and Coetzee

Russell Samolsky

Print publication date: 2012

ISBN: 9780823234790

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

This book sets out to articulate a new theory and textual practice of the relation between literary reception and embodiment by arguing that certain modern literary texts have apocalyptic futures. Rather than claim that great writers have clairvoyant powers, it examines the ways in which a text incorporates an apocalyptic event—and marked or mutilated bodies—into its future reception. The book is thus concerned with the way in which apocalyptic works solicit their future receptions. Deploying the double register of “marks” to show how a text both codes and targets mutilated bodies, the book focuses on how these bodies are incorporated into texts by Kafka, Conrad, Coetzee, and Spiegelman. Situating “In the Penal Colony” in relation to the Holocaust, Heart of Darkness to the Rwandan genocide, and Waiting for the Barbarians to the revelations of torture in apartheid South Africa and contemporary Iraq, it argues for the ethical and political importance of reading these literary works' “apocalyptic futures” in our own urgent and perilous situations. The book concludes with a reading of Spiegelman's Maus that offers a messianic counter-time to the law of apocalyptic incorporation.