Kafka : phenomenology and post-structuralism
This study seeks to identify a coalition of philosophy and literature in the work of Franz Kafka, and begins with a grounding of his output in the philosophical context from which it emerged. This relatively under-researched philosophical backdrop consists in Kafka's study, at university and in a discussion group, of philosophical positions derived from the "descriptive psychology" of Franz Brentano. Kafka was hence conversant with several philosophical agendas, notably those of logic, Gestalt psychology, and a nascent form of phenomenology, which all derived their impetus from Brentano's work. The initial issue, therefore, is that of assessing the extent of a purported influence of such theories on Kafka's texts. What emerges as a "strategy" of Kafka's work is the aesthetic exploitation of such positions; a tactic which constitutes an almost parodistic subversion of these early forms of phenomenological thought. Thus on the one hand it is implied that the narrative technique of Kafka's work, and in particular the representation of consciousness and its "world", is derived from Brentanian thought, and on the other that this influence is modulated in a specific direction, which renders these texts so singularly amenable to post-structuralist thought. My project consequently proceeds to examine the post-structuralist response to Kafka while juxtaposing this analysis with the grounding of his work in proto-phenomenology. Central to this stage of the study are Blanchot, Derrida, Foucault, and Deleuze and Guattari, and the scrutiny of their perspectives will be organized by the themes of authorship, interpretation, power, and desire. The exploration of the "deconstructive" standpoint, represented primarily through Blanchot and Derrida, will be guided by an account of why such a stance seems to be accommodated so readily by Kafka's work, and also of the extent to which his texts could be said, on the basis of the influence of Brentanian thought, to resist such appropriation.