Given how frequently the adjectives ‘Kafkaesque’ and ‘Orwellian’ are employed in contemporary discussions of societal bureaucracy and hypersurveillance, comparative studies on the two authors’ works are surprisingly scant. Standing as a corrective to this paucity, this reading of Kafka’s Der Process (The Trial) and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four argues that two specific Foucauldian spatial articulations of power and resistance, panopticism and heterotopias, serve to shape and regulate the conduct of the novels’ protagonists. Panopticism induces a paranoiac feeling of conscious visibility, inaugurating the subject’s internalization of the subjugating gaze and instigating an automatic regime of self-discipline. While heterotopias may function as counter-sites of resistance and transgression that challenge the orthodox ideology, they are more precarious in nature than has previously been acknowledged, often bleeding into the panoptical. The protagonists of these two novels, however, fail to exploit the possibilities of alternative ordering unlocked by heterotopic space, and, consequently, are unable to escape their penitential urban existence.
"Urban Panopticism and Heterotopic Space in Kafka’s Der Process and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four,"
Criticism: Vol. 56
, Article 1.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol56/iss4/1