Riskante Redlichkeit. Nietzsche – Kleist – Kafka
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The dissertation, entitled Precarious Sincerity: Nietzsche – Kleist – Kafka, (Riskante Redlichkeit. Nietzsche – Kleist – Kafka), formulates a concept of Redlichkeit (sincerity/ integrity/ truth-telling) that is constituted by both performativity and rhetoric. While philosophical, theological, and ethical discourses have disregard Redlichkeit’s rootedness in both Rede (speech) and act/deed, texts by Nietzsche, Kafka, and Kleist incorporate precisely these connotations and allow for a reformulation of Redlichkeit. Discourses of sincerity and honesty, to which Redlichkeit is closely linked, presuppose a subject that is fully aware of itself and in control of what it is doing, saying, thinking, and feeling. Nietzsche, Kleist, and Kafka confront their protagonists with unreliable and corrupt worlds and radically question any notion of a stable subject. However, instead of simply dismissing truthful speech, these texts expose a specific rhetorical and performative dimension of sincerity and truth-telling. In other words, the texts propose the possibility of Redlichkeit. At the same time Redlichkeit refers to a specific performativity of texts, and thus enables the analysis of their modes of representation. The first chapter discusses theoretical and methodological questions and approaches Redlichkeit by situating it within discourses of sincerity, rhetoric, and parrhesia or truth-telling. The second chapter, on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, shows that Redlichkeit functions as an economy of gift-giving that always compels the truth-teller (and the text) to speak to its exhaustion, whereby the point of exhaustion is always suspended. Redlichkeit turns out to be a specific style of philosophical discourse that permanently pushes itself to the edge of collapsing. In the third chapter, I argue that Kleist’s texts “Über die allmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden,” Amphitryon, and Penthesilea severely problematize the dichotomy between meaning and saying, which in turn, troubles traditional understandings of sincerity. At the same time, these texts refer to a subversive corporeality of Redlichkeit by inextricably entangling language, body, and violence. Ultimately, in “Michael Kohlhaas” this corporeality exposes both subversive and totalitarian tendencies of Redlichkeit. The third chapter discusses Kafka’s The Trial as well as a letter to Oskar Pollack and shows that Kafka’s predominant use of free indirect discourse makes the subject intangible and thus revokes Redlichkeit from any notion of subjectivity. Instead, Kafka’s texts intertwine the posture of protagonists and the rhetoric of the text in such a way that The Trial enables a reading of Redlichkeit that refers to an ethics beyond the subject. The study closes by considering ways of bringing Redlichkeit and the so-called “New Sincerity” of contemporary literature into a dialogue.