Apocalyptic Futures: Marked Bodies and the Violence of the Text in Kafka, Conrad, and Coetzee

Apocalyptic Futures: Marked Bodies and the Violence of the Text in Kafka, Conrad, and Coetzee

Russell Samolsky
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 90
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Apocalyptic Futures: Marked Bodies and the Violence of the Text in Kafka, Conrad, and Coetzee
    Book Description:

    The primary argument that Russell Samolsky makes in this book is that certain modern literary texts have apocalyptic futures. His contention, however, is not, as many eminent thinkers have claimed, that great writers have clairvoyant powers; rather he examines the ways in which a text might be written so as to incorporate an apocalyptic event into the orbit of its future reception. He is thus concerned with the way in which apocalyptic works might be said to solicit their future receptions. In analyzing this dialectic between an apocalyptic book and a future catastrophic event, Apocalyptic Futures also sets out to articulate a new theory and textual practice of the relation between literary reception and embodiment. Deploying the double register of marksto display the means by which a text both codes as well as targets mutilated bodies, his specific focus is on the way in which these bodies are incorporated into the field of texts by Franz Kafka, Joseph Conrad and J.M. Coetzee. Situating In the Penal Colonyin relation to the Holocaust, Heart of Darkness to the Rwandan genocide and Waiting for the Barbarians to the revelations of torture in apartheid South Africa and contemporary Iraq, he argues for the ethical and political importance of reading these literary works' apocalyptic futuresnow in our own urgent and perilous situation. To this end, he draws on contemporary messianic discourse to establish the ethical and political resistance of the marked body to its apocalyptic incorporation. In this regard, what is finally at stake in his analysis is his hope of finding the possibility of a hidden countervailing redemptive force at work in these and other texts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-3481-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Writing Violence: Marked Bodies and Retroactive Signs
    (pp. 1-32)

    Commenting on the emancipatory utopian possibilities in relation to a work and its temporality, Ernst Bloch writes inThe Principle of Hope: “Every great work of art, above and beyond its manifest content, is carried out according to alatency of the page to come, or in other words, in the light of the content of a future which has not yet come into being, and indeed of some ultimate resolution as yet unknown.”¹ In contrast to Bloch, for whom the latent, as-yet-unrealized possibilities of art open out onto the still-unknown but potentially redemptive future, Franz Kafka considered the relation...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Metaleptic Machines: Kafka, Kabbalah, Shoah
    (pp. 33-63)

    Writing to his friend Gershom Scholem in June 1938, in a letter that would prove poignantly prophetic, Walter Benjamin claimed that Kafka’s world was “the exact complement of his era which is preparing to do away with the inhabitants of this planet on a considerable scale. The experience which corresponds to that of Kafka, the private individual, will probably not become accessible to the masses until such time as they are being done away with.”¹ Although he wrestled with the temptation of granting Kafka a prophetic eminence, Benjamin desisted. Kafka’s “prescience” comes from a certain deep listening or auscultation of...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Apocalyptic Futures Heart of Darkness, Embodiment, and African Genocide
    (pp. 64-122)

    In May 1994, I witnessed a televised scene of carnage from Rwanda. Panning out first to display a wilderness of dense foliage, the camera angle soon narrowed to reveal a mass of machete-mutilated bodies floating in macabre and ghastly procession down a tributary of the great Congo River. Along the bottom frame of the picture ran the caption “Heart of Darkness.” The connection between caption and scene appears, at first, eerily apposite: after all, was this not the heart of Africa, site of the famously “unspeakable rites” witnessed and recorded by Marlow a hundred or so years previously? Could we...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Body in Ruins: Torture, Allegory, and Materiality in J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians
    (pp. 123-176)

    Few authors are as deeply cognizant of the ethical responsibilities and dilemmas besetting the writer of torture as J. M. Coetzee. As I noted in my introduction, inDiary of a Bad Year(2007), Coetzee ascribes authorship of his novelWaiting for the Barbarians(1980) to his doppelgänger JC. JC goes on to remark a strict correspondence between new security legislation that effectively suspends the rule of law and which is put forth in the name of the struggle against terror and the old security apparatus of the apartheid state of South Africa. In the apartheid security state, the police,...

  9. CODA: The Time of Inscription: Maus and the Apocalypse of Number
    (pp. 177-210)

    In my readings of Kafka, Conrad, and Coetzee, I have worked to illustrate the ways in which their texts might be said to have apocalyptic futures. I have tried to show how “In the Penal Colony,”Heart of Darkness, andWaiting for the Barbariansare apocalyptic not only in the violence that they portray but also in the etymological sense of apocalypse and the unveiling of their hidden futures that are still to come. (Etymologically, the English “apocalypse” derives from the Latin apocalypsis meaning “revelation” and from the Greekapokalypteinmeaning to “uncover” or “unveil.”) I have attempted further to...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 211-232)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 233-238)