Volume 21, 2019
Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and Literary Language
Amy A. Foley
The Tension of Intention
Merleau-Ponty Gestures toward Kafka
This article examines Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s reference to Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and “Investigations of a Dog” in his lecture on gesture and reconciliation, “Man Seen from the Outside.” Given the centrality of gesture in Kafka’s work, this essay considers the connections between the two figures and the likely influence of Kafka on Merleau-Ponty’s concept of gesture and intentionality. It compares their respective philosophies of gesture as they relate to meaning, reliability, silence, music, and intention. Finally, Kafka’s gestural motif of the springing body is suggested as a significant example of Merleau-Ponty’s “escaping intentions,” expressing a powerful will to intend toward others.