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UAL Research Online

Hearing Insects: The Droning World of Dread in Kafka’s The Burrow

Oki, Michiko (2015) Hearing Insects: The Droning World of Dread in Kafka’s The Burrow. In: (Re)Imagining the Insect: Natures and Cultures of Invertebrates, 1700-1900, 7 March 2015, University of Warwick.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Oki, Michiko

In Kafka’s unfinished story The Burrow, an unidentified subterranean creature struggles for digging in a burrow. In all his endeavors for the artifice of his labyrinthine home, the creature is constantly engulfed in anxiety for potential intruders. His obsessive anxiety culminates when he starts hearing the droning noise everywhere and at the same strength. Incessantly speculating the cause of this noise, his imagination first finds it as a swarm of small fries, eventually growing into a single gigantic monster threatening his burrow from the other side. It seems that the ubiquitousness of the noise drives him into dread, being agitated for carving out the single source of the noise that could contour both his anxiety and burrow.

I argue that this story allegorically expresses the relation between the auditory sense and the feeling of dread that signals a flickering threshold between representation and non-representation in subject formation. Imagining a swarm of insects is a metaphor for dread in face of the primeval creaturely collectiveness. It unsettles the consistency of the subject, reminding us of our own creaturely dimension that goes beyond the idea of the individual. Here the auditory sense embodies physical orientation, the listening subject drowns itself in the continuous tones of narratives, in the formless blob of feelings and sensations. By sketching out Kafka’s anxious world of countless insects in reference to Adorno’s aesthetic experience, I discuss insects as a literary object where the feeling of dread marks the transformation of individual entities into a transcendent social/collective being.

Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: 7 March 2015
Event Location: University of Warwick
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2022 14:48
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2022 14:48
Item ID: 18787
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/18787

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