R. Gray

German 390/Comp Lit 396/Engl 363/CHID 498/JSIS 488/Lit 298

"Freud and the Literary Imagination"


Study Questions:

Freud's Oedipal Complex and Kafka's "The Judgment"



1. What triangular relationship structures can you identify in "The Judgment"? Can you express them in terms of Freud's Oedipal theory?


2. Freud claims that the emergence of the ego-ideal, or the super-ego, occurs once the Oedipus complex is successfully dissolved. How can we apply this to the "revelation" scene (the reemergence of the father's authority) in "The Judgment?" How can this dissolution, or lack thereof, explain Georg's actions in the final scene?


3. Despite his attempts at self-assertion and independence from his father, Georg accepts and carries out his father's final wish. Although seemingly hypocritical, can Georg's behavior be explained otherwise, specifically in Freudian terms? Can we apply such ideas as wish fulfillment, semantic opposition, or even the Oedipal revolt to shed some light on his actions?


4. Freud says that the Oedipus complex dissolves and is eradicated in healthy individuals.  What does this imply for the therapeutic aspect of Kafka's "The Judgment"?  Can the story still be therapeutic for individuals whose Oedipal wishes are completely sublimated?


5. What aspects of this text do you feel a Freudian reading cannot adequately explain?  How else might you interpret the story?


6. Freud relies primarily on a male model for his Oedipus complex, but he also outlines a female version. What might Kafka's "The Judgment" look like if the main character were a daughter rather than a son?


7. Kafka famously wrote "The Judgment" in one night in a burst of inspiration, making only minor revisions for the published version.  How does Freud's work on creative writers illuminate the text?  Consider his theory of day dreams and fantasy and Kafka's own significantly more dream-like "Country Doctor" in your appraisal.


8. What are the advantages of a third person narrative in representing the psyche?  Try comparing the narrative structure of "The Judgment" to that of "A Country Doctor" and Gustl.  Is there one ideal narrative approach for conveying Freudian ideas?