Minor Literature

How does the situation of the German language in Prague - a withered vocabulary, an incorrect syntax - contribute to such a utilization? Generally, we might call the linguistic elements, however varied they may be, that express the "internal tensions of a language" intensives or tensors. It is in this sense that the linguist Vidal Sephiha terms intensive "any linguistic tool that allows a move toward the limit of a notion or a surpassing of it," marking a movement of language toward its extremes, toward a reversible beyond or before. Sephiha well shows the variety of such elements which can be all sorts of master-words, verbs, or prepositions that assume all sorts of senses; pronominal or purely intensive verbs as in Hebrew; conjunctions, exclamations, adverbs, and terms that connote pain. One could equally cite the accents that are interior to words, their discordant function. And it would seem that the language of minor literature particularly develops these tensors or these intensives. In the lovely pages where he analyzes the Prague German that was influenced by Czech, Wagenbach cites as the characteristics of this form of German the incorrect use of prepositions; the abuse of the pronominal, the employment of malleable verbs (such as Giben, which is used for the series ‘put, sit, place, take away’ and which thereby becomes intensive); the multiplication and succession of adverbs; the use of pain-filled connotations; the importance of the accent as a tension internal to the word; and the distribution of consonants and vowels as part of an internal discordance. Wagenbach insists on this point: all these marks of the poverty of a language show up in Kafka but have been taken over by a creative utilization for the purposes of the new sobriety, a new expressivity, a new flexibility, a new intensity.

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