This American Life 320: Contemporary Kafkaesque

This American Life episode explores the life of androgynous individual Piper Logan. Both the audience response and press release are included in this podcast. Please enjoy!

Cultural Fabric

Individualism, for the purpose of this project, refers to the ongoing theme of serving oneself and being unique in doing so. The following are a few examples of the individualist themes in modern literature, whether it be movies, books, or art.

Dystopian Novels

The popular novel, Divergent, is an example of young adults fighting for individualism in a society that punishes it. Kafkaesque in nature, the dark and dreary dystopia in the Divergent series is considered evil to author Veronica Roth’s readers because of its promotion of collectivism. Divergent’s government competes with the ideas that are heavily defended by today’s youth.

Fashion Blogs

Thrifting has become a trending topic in magazines and blogs. It’s the idea of purchasing things second hand and, in most cases, completely unique from anything else in the store that intrigues individualist culture. Blogs post about thrift shop finds and, in many cases, the thrift shop finds mirror a fad that’s been pre established by big name designers. The thrifting just allows for the guise of individuality, similar to the anecdote of Piper and his roommate.

Young Adult Novels/ Movies

John Green’s novel-movie adaptations like Paper Towns accentuates the fact that the main characters are “different.” In this story specifically, one of the characters is an enigma. She serves only herself and does things to please her and only her. The only thing that makes her interesting are these attempts to be different. The narrator of the story glorifies and romanticizes this compulsive need to be unique.


In the podcast, a New York Times article is mentioned titled The Age of Individualism. The author, Ross Douthat, says that individualism is detrimental in that it only caters to one's own loyalties. If Ross Douthat is considered a representative for his generation then it is safe to say that older Americans aren’t overly supportive of individualistic behavior. This article offers a contrary view, one in which individualism is a negative thing.


Pertaining to the art world, a lot of recently produced art pieces are up for interpretation. This allows for the individual to project their own selves into the art.

When speaking on individualism, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where it is or why it’s there. It’s intangible and elusive. It’s a theme that is underlying in so many things created by and for our generation that, sometimes, we don’t even notice it’s there.

By Leo Levy and Bella Mezzaroba

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