Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2022

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Germanic Languages and Literatures

Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



The thesis presents a re-reading of Kafka's novel "The Trial" against the background of Kafka's negotiation of Freudian psychoanalysis. Rather than merely employing the Freudian framework as a hermeneutic tool, the thesis argues that Kafka constructs his novel along the lines of psychoanalytic theories while simultaneously attempting to deconstruct them and question the effectiveness of the so-called talking cure by means of ironically subverting a therapeutic configuration. The starting point of the thesis centers on an oftentimes overlooked scene at the very beginning of the novel, arguing that the voyeuristic old couple across the street from K. demonstrate that the trauma K. is haunted by is none other than the resurfacing of the insufficiently repressed primal scene. Consequently, the novel depicts K.'s unsuccessful attempts to emulate and process the once witnessed scene by confronting him with several disfigured versions of the primal scene that appear to play off of the Freudian axiom. Being unable to overcome his inherent tendency to repress such configurations, K. attempts to alleviate his inner turmoil by practicing an autonomous "writing cure": The typified artist figure Titorelli exemplifies what the act of sublimation ought to look like. Since all such attempts merely perpetuate K.'s misery, he has himself executed in his unconscious in an act that bears traces of the "Urszene". Going off of the self-referential elements that are dispersed throughout the novel, a connection is drawn between Kafka's own stylization as an eternally submissive son that can be interpreted as a necessary prerequisite for the continuous production of literature and seems to constitute Kafka's own identity as a writer.


German (de)

Chair and Committee

Kurt Beals

Committee Members

Lynne Tatlock, Gerhild Williams