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The Reality of Kafka’s Absurdity: The Trial

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Brandan Ivie

Kafka's The Trial is a piece of absurdist fiction that pulls its audience into the central conflict and asks the question: what is Jay's crime? Unfortunately for the audience sense of closure, this very question is never overtly answered; furthermore, when we understand the genre expectations, we begin to realize this uncertainty was purposeful rather than incidental. Instead, the question of the crime is what allows us to explore the abstract presence of "The Law" within this obscure world. In this presentation, I will explore the formal and structural elements of The Trial to argue that this literary world may be more hyper realist than its surrealist appearance may present. I will further demonstrate how the dystopian world of The Trial reflects our real world in many intriguing ways, particularly that of the world at the rise of Nazi power in the early 20th century. However, while Kafka's novel may critique a regime like that one, it serves as a reflection on the human condition and Western society's tendency to want to locate criminality in clear, certain terms. My paper will also discuss how there is guilt that is present within human individuals that the novel is committed to examining, and this sense of guilt is tied to the nature of Jay's crime as well as to the nature of his society. Through this analysis I will address Jay's unidentified crime as a plot device, and I will ultimately link this to the novel's investment in critiquing power systems through law, literature, and justice.
University / Institution: Southern Utah University
Type: Oral
Format: In Person
SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Area of Research: Humanities
Faculty Mentor: Nicole Dib
Location: Union Building, ROOM 312 (2:25pm)