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Would you please help me with the meaning of this sentence?

Kafka’s rhetoric serves not only nor chiefly to complicate descriptions of character and event to the point that fixity vanishes.

Am I right to understand it this way?

Kafka didn’t need to use too much complicated description of character and event to achieve a strong poetic effect (fixity = coherence of the text).

What exactly does the phrase “not only nor” mean?

  • 'fixity' may be in the dictionary, but it is one of those academic made-up words, sounds fancy but not really sure what it means because no one really uses it. – Mitch May 2 '14 at 13:06
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A couple of extra commas from the author would have helped here:

"Kafka's rhetoric serves not only, nor chiefly, to complicate descriptions of character and event to the point that fixity vanishes".

The text continues, "Rather, it defines and mobilizes types of persuasion".

This is the kind of horrible academic prose that confuses its readers instead of clearly explaining something to them. What I think the author means is:

"Kafka's rhetoric does not only complicate descriptions of character and event to the point that the coherence of the text vanishes. Nor does it mainly have that effect."

Which implicitly raises the question: If that's what he actually meant, why the hell couldn't he have written it like that? (And I'm still not convinced that it really means anything even after my attempt to deconstruct it...)

  • Thank you Erik for your helpful response. This sample comes from Stanley Corngold´s text on Kafka´s Metamorphosis and its deconstructive features are sometimes very hard to understand. – bart-leby May 2 '14 at 11:31
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'Nor' in this context is being correctly used to link negative alternatives, so in this case, the sentence

"Kafka's rhetoric serves not only nor chiefly to complicate descriptions..."

means that his rhetoric is not completely intended "to complicate descriptions", and is not even mostly intended to do this.

Essentially, the construction is a collapsed form of:

"Kafka's rhetoric serves not only to complicate descriptions, nor chiefly to complicate descriptions..."

which is how I parse sentences like this when they give me pause.

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