The performance of perversion in Kafka's literature and its adaptations
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Dr Davide Cerfeda
The interpretation of Kafka’s literature has always presented major problems for critics, who have attempted to simplify the figures and metaphors contained in the stories by offering possible explanations. Starting from the view of Kafka’s perversions as logical absurdities in a specific time and place, this thesis interrogates their role as a dominant element in Kafka’s poetics. I argue that performativity and performance are central to representations of perversion in Kafka and its effects over the fictional characters. I use a predominantly psychoanalytic approach to Kafka’s life and a post-structuralist analysis of his stories and their filmic and theatrical adaptations. The frequent perverted elements and the predominance of perverse performances, particularly revealed through the presence and need of a spectator, are explained by the different stages of Kafka’s life. Through this analysis it can be concluded that Kafka’s perverted view of life originates in his relationships with other people, particularly figures of power. Perversions abound in Kafka’s literature, but here I focus on gender, animality and Law. I argue that gender, animality and law/punishment are strictly connected by the need for a performance to define them. My work establishes perversion as the originating factor of Kafka’s narrative. His intent is to challenge standards by performing their perversion and showing how this has nefarious consequences only when an audience is present. If there were no performative expectations based on arbitrary standards, there would be no perversions to confuse and shock the audience and no punishment would be needed for the perverted individuals.
KeywordsKafka; performance; perversion; gender; adaptations; film studies; German literature; German studies
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