This essay investigates Kafka's first great story, “The Judgment,” through the lens of speech act theory. It argues that performative analysis can yield new insights into the text, with consequences for our understanding of the author's larger poetic project. It also shows how, in its treatment of two key issues — the susceptibility of speech acts to failure and the relation of indirect speech acts to questions of knowledge and power — Kafka's text has important implications for contemporary performative theory.

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