Drawing Kafka’s Castle
An experimental expansion of the theory of cognitive realism
We investigated the effects of narrative perspective on mental imagery by comparing responses to an English translation of Franz Kafka’s Das Schloß in the published version (narrated in the third person) versus an earlier (first-person) draft. We analysed participants’ pencil drawings of their imaginative experience for presence/absence of specific features (K. and the castle) and for image entropy (a proxy for image unpredictability). We also used word embeddings to perform cluster analysis of participants’ verbal free-response testimony, generating thematic clusters independently of experimenter expectations. We found no effects of text version on feature presence or overall entropy, but an effect on entropy variance, which was higher in the third-person condition. There was also an effect of text version on free responses: Readers of the third-person version were more likely to use words associated with mood and atmosphere. We offer conclusions on “Kafkaesque” aesthetics, cognitive realism, and the future of experimental literary studies.
Keywords: cognitive realism, drawing, Kafka, narrative perspective, natural language processing, image entropy