The Power of Madness: A Foucauldian Reading of Kafka's "The Casle" and Other Works

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Breeding, Jacob
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University Honors College, Middle Tennessee State University
This thesis examines madness both as a social construct and as a revolt against power in the works of Franz Kafka by applying the thought of Michel Foucault, with emphasis on his History of Madness (1961) and Discipline and Punish (1975), in order to analyze the sociopolitical dimensions of madness in Kafka’s writing (with emphasis on The Castle [1930]). In most of Kafka’s stories, the protagonist is isolated, either because he is markedly “different” and does not make sense to the world in which he lives (Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis [1915], the hunger artist in “A Hunger Artist” [1922]) or because he is relatively reasonable or “normal” (like us) and is operating within a nonsensical world (Josef K. in The Trial [1925], K. in The Castle). Because he does not fit within his episteme (the finite set of ideas which constitute knowledge for a specific culture at a specific period in time), he is a madman, a nuisance to the culture that must either be corrected or removed. Red Peter, from Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy” (1917), is an example of a madman “corrected” through discipline. An ape captured by a hunting expedition, Peter learns to mimic mankind, acquiring speech and rising to the “cultural level of an average European” so that he can escape his cage (183). The Hunger Artist of Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist,” in contrast, locks himself in a cage and insists on making no sense to anyone. The latter character is essentially the negative of the former, and the rationales of both can be helpfully explained using the works of Foucault, which is what I have tried to do in the second chapter. That chapter, in part, serves as a prelude to the third chapter, an analysis of The Castle via Foucault that delves more deeply into Foucauldian concepts and foci including panopticism, bureaucratic structures of power, and the reversibility of the reason-madness relationship, through the character K. and his struggle with the Castle.
Kafka, Foucault, madness, castle, power, discipline