Monday, March 21, 2011

Judith Butler, Kafka, and the LRB

The March 3, 2011 volume of the LRB featured a reproduction of Judith Butler's recent essay on Kafka's literary remains. A link to that essay can be found here. (For more on Butler, follow this link.)

In response to Butler's essay, I submitted a letter to the editors of the LRB. As I have not heard back, I felt it important to post my response here:

"While I did not have the opportunity to attend Judith Butler’s lecture on Kafka in person, I read its reproduction with considerable interest. To say that I was disappointed would be a severe understatement. Ms. Butler commits the opening stages of her essay less to Kafka and his literary remains and far more to a polemical assault on the state of Israel. What issues pertaining to the the Galut, for instance, or the ‘Occupied Territories’ have to do with Kafka remain a mystery. Equally mysterious is Ms. Butler’s foray into the theoretical. What, for example, does she mean by ‘a non-Zionist theological gesture’? Or worse, ‘the poetics of non-arrival’? In her attempt to cast Kafka as marginally Jewish, and to read his stories as meditations on displacement, Butler seems, ultimately, to be offended by the idea that Israel might benefit from the monetization of Kafka’s legacy. The sad part, of course, is that in her attempt to prove this point, Butler fails to recognize what she herself is up to - which is, in short, the hijacking of Kafka for the sake of a political argument against Israel. One need not look further than the start of Butler’s essay to find evidence of this thinly-veiled prejudice: for it is here that she suggests - seemingly with a snicker - that the ‘public good’ is, for all intents and purposes, dictated by the priorities of the ‘Jewish people.’ Unfortunately, this is not the only reference of this sort which Ms. Butler makes to Jews and Judaism."

--Jesse Freedman

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