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      Bureaucracy and Desire: Franz Kafka’s Accident Report

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          Abstract

          In as much as accidents are a malfunction, an interruption and even a source of horror, they also offer inexhaustible discursive potential. As an inevitable negative consequence of technological and industrial progress, accidents remind us of the contingent occurrence of disorder: they become an immaterial threat and yet they also fascinate, and create possibilities for narration. 1 In the attempt to grasp, register and regulate them, accidents become cases for insurance and are transformed into data in statistical analysis. The question of guilt and liability is, thereby, replaced in the insurance system by the category of risk. 2 As such, the bureaucratic and legal aspects of accidents became relevant aesthetic and narrative considerations for several modernist authors, including Franz Kafka and Robert Musil. 3

          Franz Kafka, in his dual occupation as literary author and professional writer, a so-called concipist (responsible for writing legal documents or signing documents written by his superiors) towards the end of the Habsburg Monarchy, seems to be the ideal candidate to observe all these developments in insurance and accident prevention. In the following first section of this essay, an example from Kafka’s Travel Diaries gives an idea of his own poetics of accident in the making ( Wagner: 2007): Kafka’s 1911 report of a car accident provides us with key insights in the interrelation between the factual and the fictional world. In the second section, the function of reports and files in his 1926 institution-novel The Castle shows the possibilities of literary writing and narration in a milieu, where life and institution intervene in each other ( Campe: 2005). 4 Finally, and against this background, I explore how the fundamental psychoanalytic term of desire is shaped in a pursuit for institutional and official recognition, so that a specific kind of official desire – in German Amtsbegehren – emerges ( Wolf: 2018). 5

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          Most cited references42

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          The Demon of Writing : Powers and Failures of Paperwork

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            The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis.

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2056-6700
                Open Library of Humanities
                Open Library of Humanities
                2056-6700
                06 March 2020
                2020
                : 6
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Humboldt University of Berlin, DE
                Article
                10.16995/olh.480
                ad55b316-f4b8-41aa-bd3a-371511ff8f0a
                Copyright: © 2020 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Categories
                Literature, law and psychoanalysis

                Literary studies,Religious studies & Theology,Arts,Social & Behavioral Sciences,History,Philosophy

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