“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””

The Incomprehensible Man: The Stranger and Living Absurdly

Essay completed 28 November 2016

In The Stranger, Albert Camus characterizes the absurdity of the human condition. Meursault, the novel’s protagonist, lives his life detached from everything around him. Even the death of his own mother does not seem to affect him. External stimuli and his basic, internal needs are his only sources of motivation. Morality does not concern Meursault, who describes his friend Raymond’s abuse of his girlfriend in the same passive, detached tone he uses to recount what he ate for breakfast. Meursault’s moral indifference brings him into conflict with society, particularly in the second part of the novel when he is tried for the murder of an Arab man, a crime for which he never shows remorse. After my first reading of The Stranger, I thought Meursault perfectly represents Camus’ philosophy of living absurdly. Continue reading “The Incomprehensible Man: The Stranger and Living Absurdly”

“At Night He Imagined Unspeakable Things”: Grotesques and Misinterpretations in “Hands”

Essay completed 22 November 2016

Sherwood Anderson shifts the grotesque from the realm of the supernatural to the world of everyday human life in his 1919 short story cycle Winesburg, Ohio. Characters in the work encounter the grotesque through attempts to conform to ideas and societal pressures. Anderson portrays the grotesque as a human creation, born of the conflict between ideas and failures to communicate. In his book A New Book of the Grotesques: Contemporary Approaches to Anderson’s Early Fiction, Robert Dunne analyzes this relationship between the grotesque and failures to communicate in Winesburg, Ohio, arguing that Anderson expresses “language is an indeterminate source of meaning and is in fact a contributing factor in how individuals become grotesque” (Dunne 11). Continue reading ““At Night He Imagined Unspeakable Things”: Grotesques and Misinterpretations in “Hands””

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”