Dissociation, Delusion and the Splitting of the Self in The Trial by Franz Kafka: Phenomenology and Neurobiology of Schizophrenia- by Elisabete Castelon Konkiewitz and Edward Ziff


In this essay, we propose an association between Franz Kafka’s novel, The Trial, and phenomenological and neurobiological processes in schizophrenia. We begin by presenting a summary of the plot, pointing to some of its remarkable literary aspects. We next compare the mental processes of dissociation, disorientation and delusion as represented in the novel with phenomenological processes that take place in the prodromal states of schizophrenia. We discuss how such disorders of the self and disorders of thought, both crucial aspects of the schizophrenic experience, appear in The Trial and in other literary and private writings by Franz Kafka. We relate how these disorders may arise from the false attribution of salience and false associative learning caused by hyperactivity of dopaminergic function associated with chaotic firing of dopaminergic neurons. Finally, we show how Kafka leads not just the protagonist of The Trial, but even more the reader to experience a quasi-delusional state. We discuss the relationship between the perturbation of thought and disorientation of mind evoked by the novel in the reader and the need of our brains for empathy and predictability.


Neurological Disorders in Famous Artists – Part 4

Editor(s): Bogousslavsky, Julien (Montreux)
Tatu, Laurent (Besançon)  

Bogousslavsky J, Tatu L (eds): Neurological Disorders in Famous Artists – Part 4. Front Neurol Neurosci. Basel, Karger, 2018, vol 43, pp 196-220


Elisabete Castelon Konkiewitz received a medical degree from UNIFESP (São Paulo Federal University) in 1993 and a doctorate degree in -Neurology from the German university Technische Universität München, in 2002. She received the title of specialist in Neurology from the Brazilian Academy of Neurology and the title of specialist in Psychiatry from the Brazilian Association of Psychiatry. She has been an associate professor at the Federal University of Grande Dourados (UFGD) since 2008.

Elisabete lives in Dourados, MS, Brazil, practices yoga, and has two sons, Marcelo and Lucas Maurício.


Edward Ziff received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Columbia University in 1963 and a PhD from Princeton University in Biochemistry in 1969. As a postdoctoral student with Nobel Prize winner, Fred Sanger, in Cambridge he conducted early genome sequencing studies. Ed served on the faculties of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London and Rockefeller University in New York. In 1982, he joined New York University School of Medicine, where he is Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology and Neural Science and was an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Ed researches brain function and neurological disease and was a Visiting Researcher at UFGD in Dourados. He lives in New York, has written for The New York Review of Books, coauthored a popular book on DNA, and is an amateur photographer, video maker, and painte


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