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Kafka's The TrialPhilosophical Perspectives$
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Espen Hammer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190461454

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190461454.001.0001

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“A Disease of All Signification”

“A Disease of All Signification”

Kafka’s The Trial Between Adorno and Agamben

(p.111) Chapter 4 “A Disease of All Signification”
Kafka's The Trial

Gerhard Richter

Oxford University Press

This essay investigates the implications of the idea that a philosophically informed understanding of a literary text such as The Trial cannot proceed in isolation from a perpetual engagement with the ways in which the literal and the figurative dimensions of the text unfold in relation to each other. If Kafka’s novel, by causing the relation between the literal and the figural to enter a space of indeterminacy, enacts something of what Adorno calls “a sickness of all signification [eine Krankheit alles Bedeuten],” no reading of Kafka can afford to ignore the precise conceptual terms of this sickness. The implications of these reflections are considered in relation to an exemplary test case, Giorgio Agamben’s recent interpretation of The Trial as Kafka’s commentary on the relation between law and slander.

Keywords:   Adorno, Agamben, law, signification, space of indeterminacy, nonliteral

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