Kafka everywhere writes about, and evinces in his life, the impossibility of connecting with other people and the impossibility of separating from them. This essay shows how Kafka repeatedly formulates this double impossibility in terms of the fantasy of the primal scene, always in conjunction with the other primal fantasies, those of seduction and castration. It explores the inscription of the primal scene in three well-known short fictions ("The Metamorphosis," "A Country Doctor," and "The Judgment") and in two important letters. Before tracing their vicissitudes in these texts, the essay proposes a new way of conceptualizing the primal fantasies by way of identity (seduction), difference (castration), and the synthesis of identity and difference (primal scene). Finally, the essay proposes a new approach to the much-discussed marriage problem in Kafka's life, showing how marriage explicitly raises the specter of the primal scene in Kafka's letters to Felice Bauer, which develop the significance of this scene for Kafka's biography even to the point of presenting his fatal disease as one of its manifestations.


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pp. 513-533
Launched on MUSE
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