ABSTRACT

Drawing upon Edmund Husserl’s concept of the natural attitude, our taken-for-granted understandings of what is normal, natural, and what should be the case, I argue that when one’s everyday routines are radically disrupted in a sustained way, as has happened with the COVID-19 global pandemic, adjustments are also needed in our natural attitudes so that the latter accurately reflect our actual situation. And yet, the tendency to resist altering one’s natural attitude in response to major changes in one’s life is very strong, as we see with Gregor Samsa in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Vashti in E. M. Forster’s story, “The Machine Stops.” Both characters, I suggest, offer important cautionary tales as we assess the impact of the “new normal” that has come to characterize daily existence during a global pandemic as well as nostalgic appeals to return, as quickly as possible, to the “old normal” of our pre-pandemic lives. This critical analysis is an especially urgent task given the fact that this pre-pandemic normal was clearly not as positive an experience for some people as for others.

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