“The Life I Formerly Led as an Ape”: Imitation and Intermediacy in “A Report to an Academy”

Essay completed 14 April 2017

Franz Kafka’s 1917 short story “A Report to an Academy” is a characteristically bleak assessment of human nature as restricting rather than liberating. The story’s narrator begins his oration by thanking his audience for inviting him to give an account “of the life I formerly led as an ape” (Kafka 250). If Red Peter is no longer an ape, is he a human, or something in-between? Through Red Peter, Kafka questions whether convincing human imitation is equivalent to being one. No matter how closely Red Peter imitates the human, in his narrative he repeatedly calls attention to what still separates him from humanity. As Red Peter describes how he learned to mimic human behavior, Kafka explores how the former ape’s imitative performance and interspecies intermediacy interact to reveal the instability of the human designation. Continue reading ““The Life I Formerly Led as an Ape”: Imitation and Intermediacy in “A Report to an Academy””

Mirror Tests: Anthropocentrism and Cross-Species Understanding in The Lives of Animals

Essay completed 3 March 2017

J.M. Coetzee’s work The Lives of Animals calls language into question by framing a discussion of animal rights through fictional academic lectures, conversations, and debates. In her response to the work, Majorie Garber argues the narrative destabilizes the reader’s ability to choose which authoritative voice to trust through its metafictive structure and ultimate establishing of “partitions of knowledge” between disciplines (73). I concur with Garber and wonder whether Coetzee’s intention for The Lives of Animals is to ask “What is the value of literature?” more than “What is the value of the animal?” (84). Throughout the fictional debates, Coetzee asks us to question what kinds of language can be trusted as an accurate way to represent the essence of animal experience. What kind of language, then, brings us to the best model of understanding the relationship between the human and nonhuman?   Continue reading “Mirror Tests: Anthropocentrism and Cross-Species Understanding in The Lives of Animals”

Liberal Democracy and the Paradox of Nietzsche: A Comparative Analysis

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 24 November 2015

It is peculiar to think that Friedrich Nietzsche, perhaps the most influential thinker of the present age, held such contempt for liberal democracy, the leading political ideology of the postmodern world. Is Nietzsche’s argument for renewed spiritual fervor compatible with the postmodern democratic world’s aversion to religious extremism? How can a liberal global society draw so much from democracy’s greatest critic?Perhaps the answer becomes more apparent upon considering the relationship between Nietzsche’s philosophy and democracy. An exploration of Nietzsche’s cold analysis of its characteristics as well as his scathing dissection of its weaknesses reveals the what he finds lacking in democracy. Continue reading “Liberal Democracy and the Paradox of Nietzsche: A Comparative Analysis”

We All Want to Change the World: Locke and the Right to Revolt

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 9 October 2015

In his Second Treatise of Government, John Locke argues that all people possess a right to overthrow an oppressive government. While Locke’s theory seems to protect society from oppression, one could argue that granting the people such influence over their government could produce a chaotic society rather than a free one. Is it logical to claim that all people have a natural right to overthrow the government? Is it reasonable to entrust the fate of the government to the whims of the people? Does Locke’s political theory promote anarchy? Locke addresses these questions through his belief in the fundamental rights of humans and his argument of how best to protect societies from tyrannical leaders. Continue reading “We All Want to Change the World: Locke and the Right to Revolt”