Academic journal article German Quarterly

Erzahlte Psychoanalyse bei Franz Kafka: Die Deutung von Kafkas Erzahlung

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Erzahlte Psychoanalyse bei Franz Kafka: Die Deutung von Kafkas Erzahlung

Article excerpt

Kaus, Rainer J. Erzahlte Psychoanalyse bei Franz Kafka, Die Deutung von Kafkas Erzalung Das Urteil. Heidelberg: Winter, 1998. 78 pp. DM 24.00 hardcover.

This slim volume represents the author's "Antrittsvorlesung" delivered to the Erziehungswissenschaftliche Fakultat of the University of Cologne in February 1998. It was conceived as part of a forthcoming book project with the working title "Freud and Kafka: Literatur-Psychologie and Hermeneutik," scheduled to appear with the same publisher in the immediate future. In anticipation of the question why, given its imminent appearance in a larger interpretive context, this interpretation of Das Urteil deserves separate publication as a book unto itself, the author cites the encouragement of the publisher, the significance of Das Urteil as deserving of such an independent interpretation, and his hope that this preliminary taste of what is to come in the larger book will whet his readers' appetites.

The receptive history of Das Urteil has known no dearth of psychoanalytic interpretations. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any interpretation, regardless of its predominant focus, being able to deal with this story without turning in some way to Freud's psychoanalytic apparatus. Kaus, like many interpreters before him, wants to rely solely on psychoanalytic categories; but his aim is to shift the interpretive emphasis away from the exclusive concern with Oedipal rivalry that marks previous psychoanalytic approaches to this text, concentrating instead on the libidinal relations that, to his mind, characterize the tensions among the three male characters, Georg Bendemann, his father, and the mysterious friend in St. Petersburg. Kaus acknowledges that the fundamental configuration of Kafka's characters is structured around the Oedipal triangle; his point, however, is that the relationship between Georg and his father displays such a powerful libidinal charge as to allow one to diagnose an intense homoerotic attachment. This thesis is supported primarily by references to Freud's theory of the so-called "negative" Oedipal complex in which the son, instead of identifying with the role of the father and defining the mother as the love-object, identifies with the maternal role, assumes a "feminine" posture with regard to the father, and hence treats him with exaggerated care and affection. Now Freud, of course, insisted that the negative and positive, the deviant and the "normal" Oedipal structures, exist side-by-side in all individuals and constitute the enormous complexity of the Oedipal relation. This accounts, according to Freud, for the pronounced ambivalence the child experiences especially toward the father, which in all instances mixes hatred for the rival with a curious libidinal attachment. Kaus's interpretation of this libidinal dimension in the father-son relationship represents a serious short-circuit of the complexity inherent in the Freudian model, since it collapses the Oedipal relationship between Georg and his father into its purely negative form by stressing the homo-erotic component. Moreover, it reinforces this short-circuit by means of a flat reading of the text that plays down ambivalences in order to insist on the accuracy of its own interpretive conclusions. Literary scholars who have come to expect, even to appreciate, the multivalencies of Kafka's text will certainly be put off by Kaus's interpretive arrogance, which brushes aside previous psychoanalytic interpretations as the "ublich[e] Banalisierung dieser Meistererzahlung" (48) and insists that the correctness of his own interpretation cannot be placed in question (60). …

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