Writing, Inscription and Power: Word and Identity in Paul, Kafka and Toni Morrison

Cumings, Susan G (1994) Writing, Inscription and Power: Word and Identity in Paul, Kafka and Toni Morrison. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

In this thesis, I have sought to explore the problems peculiar to language in its inscribed form: that is, peculiar to writing. The first chapter looks at the letters to the Corinthians, and at the ways in which Paul constructs a system of textuality within them. In particular, I focus on the manner in which Paul invests the act of writing with divine authority, and characterizes himself as a divinely appointed writer. With his text therefore posited as carrying such authority I then turn to the identity which he constructs - again using tropes of textuality - and imposes on the Corinthians. The metaphorization of the reader's body into letter then serves to illustrate the denial or neutralization of pain and the silencing of dissent, two concomitant exercises in power. The second chapter takes Kafka's short story 'In the Penal Settlement' as a Nietzschean reading of Paul, noting how metaphors become re-invested with concreteness and gruesome reality. Rendered literal, details of the imposition of writing, the inscription of authority upon the subject reveal the ways in which human qualities and expression are silenced or destroyed by this system of rule. Kafka's mirroring of the eschatological expectation common to religion also serves to show that this means used to justify the system's acts of cruelty is false and deceptive. In the third chapter, I look at the way in which Morrison, in Beloved, takes up this theme of eschatological expectation; challenging it as in itself inadequate to sustain a people involved in very present suffering. Morrison, like Paul and Kafka, lets questions of writing, text, and the power of inscription drive her narrative, but through the lives and experiences of her characters explores the dangers of inscription and seeks alternative roles for writing, outside or beyond their 'Pauline' closed-system. As a postscript, I then take these questions of inscription and identity into the new, practical context of computerized communications networks, with a view to the political advocacy called for in my concluding arguments.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: David Jasper
Keywords: Comparative literature
Date of Award: 1994
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1994-76299
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 16:09
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 16:09
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/76299

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