Laissés-pour-compte et hommes au rebut en démocratie : Kafka et Melville

Abstract : What should be done with outcasts in a democratic system? Read together, Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and Kafka’s “The Stoker” provide an insight into how literature responds to that very question. Each of these short stories offers a scenario of social collapse: a man falls into the sea but stays afloat as long as a helping hand is extended to him but drowns as he is denied this help. In both cases, this scenario arises as tensions are built to provide a political and ethical meaning to a sequence played on a tense American stage. Literature thus ups the stakes for these dead men by twisting a sociopolitical issue into an ethical, life-and-death issue. However, it remains an open question whether literature will succeed, or will its failure illustrate the inability of ethics to provide a guiding light toward resolving some of the key political issues we face.
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Frédérique Leichter-Flack. Laissés-pour-compte et hommes au rebut en démocratie : Kafka et Melville. Revue de Litterature Comparee, Klincksieck 2009, pp.41-54. ⟨hal-01984631⟩

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