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In the name of the father: a Lacanian and Derridean analysis of Kafka's “The Judgement"

Kafka’s art is one of negative capability immersed in negative emotions. Towards what is this art of negativity directed? In the broad sense, the Kafkaesque strangeness can be seen as part of his modern allegory meant to expose the modern conditions of unfreedom. With combined insights from Lacan (those related to the Name of the Father and the analysis of psychosis) and from Derrida (regarding the logocentric structure), the authors examine one specific story, “The Judgment,” to understand how Kafka exposes conditions of unfreedom and why such an exposition in fact reflects Kafka’s passionate desire for the freedom which has been restricted or denied under certain modern condition. The more shocking and also more sobering part of Kafka’s prophecy in “The Judgment” is this revelation: the victim of repressive power, often in the image of a “son,” is victimized partly because he has already internalized the rules of a logocentriclogo centric system with the “Name of Father” (a phrase from Lacan) at the center, whether this “father” is alive, as in “The Judgment,” or dead, as “In the Penal Colony.”

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