The Compulsion to Repeat and the Death Instinct in Franz Kafka's "The Judgment" and The Trial.

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Title: The Compulsion to Repeat and the Death Instinct in Franz Kafka's "The Judgment" and The Trial.
Author: Barbeau, Robert Russell Jr
Advisors: Ruth V. Gross, Committee Member
Hans Kellner, Committee Chair
Jon Thompson, Committee Member
Abstract: Kafka's well-known obsessions with both language and death need to be understood in light of their common factor—the psychoanalytic concept of the repetition compulsion. Since these obsessions act as motivating forces compelling Kafka's writing, it is crucial to understand the constitutive nature of the repetition compulsion in Kafka's texts by examining its presence in two of his prominent works, "The Judgment" and The Trial. I will begin this study by first establishing my theoretical framework, defining the compulsion to repeat and the death instinct as they function in Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Next I will differentiate Lacan's (re)formulation of the repetition compulsion and the death instinct and show the critical role the symbolic order qua language has in this conception. Following this, I will examine Kafka's story, "The Judgment," looking at a typical piece of psychoanalytic criticism focused on Kafka's supposed Oedipus complex and then showing the pitfalls of such an approach. I will go on to show the possibilities for deeper readings offered by post-Freudian psychoanalytic concepts, focusing on the repetitive and constitutive role that the letter has for the subject, the function of the return of the repressed, and the significance of the space "between two deaths," where the story ends. The next section will examine The Trial in a similar manner; the focus will be on the importance of language in the novel, including the court as an agency of language and also the role lying or deceit plays in signification. I will also address the effect on K. of the initial trauma of his arrest, the role of memory and forgetting in the novel, and the relevance of the space "between two deaths."
Date: 2006-11-28
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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