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Introduction to Existentialism Literature and Philosophy.

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1 Introduction to Existentialism Literature and Philosophy

2 WARNING: EXISTENTIALISM DEALS WITH INTENSE THEOLOGICAL (“RELIGIOUS STUDY”) AND ONTOLOGICAL (“STUDY OF BEING”) AS WELL AS EPISTEMOLOGICAL (“STUDY OF KNOWLEDGE”) ISSUES. THIS CLASS IS NOT ENDORSING EXISTENTIALISM AS BEING ANYTHING MORE THAN MERE THEORY. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR LEARNING THE TENETS OF EXISTENTIALISM AND RELATING THEM TO LITERATURE. EXISTENTIALISM CAN BE A WEE BIT DEPRESSING IT TENDS TO PROJECT A “LIFE-IS-MEANINGLESS, GLASS-HALF-EMPTY” SORT OF VIEW ON THINGS. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOVE IT YOU JUST HAVE TO UNDERSTAND IT.

3 The Problem of Meaning Humans crave meaning A universe that makes sense Create stories to make sense out of the universe; but when the universe doesn’t cooperate you feel like a stranger in the world

4 What is philosophy? What does it all mean? Why are we here? What should I do with my life? Philosophers analyze, they pick apart, and then they try to come up with reasons for their beliefs and reasoned answers for their questions.

5 ANDREW WYETH Christina’s World (1948) A complex philosophy emphasizing the existence of the human being, the lack of meaning and purpose in life, and the solitude of human existence…

6 GEORGIO DE CHIRICO Love Song It was during the Second World War, when Europe found itself in a crisis faced with death and destruction, that the existential movement began to flourish, popularized in France in the 1940s…

7 Two Different Types of Existentialists Godly (Kierkegaard; Marcel and Maritain (Catholic); Tillich and Berdyaev (Protestant) and Buber (Jewish)) Believe God exists, but people are alienated from Him. Man is alienated from his God-like self, and the problem of his life is trying to close that gap freedom involves accepting the responsibility for choice and committing to the choice Ungodly (Sartre and Camus) Do not believe God exists. “Because their is no God to give purpose to the universe, each man must accept individual responsibility for his own becoming.” In choosing for himself, he chooses for all men “the image of man as he ought to be.” He has to make good choices that others could follow

8 MARK ROTHKO Untitled (1968) Big Ideas of Existentialism Despite encompassing a huge range of philosophical, religious, and political ideologies, the underlying concepts of existentialism are simple…

9 Existence Precedes Essence Cogito ergo sum. “Existence precedes essence” implies that the human being has no essence (no essential self).

10 Existence Before Essence People are born like a blank slate and create their essence or being through their unique experiences.

11 Absurdism The belief nothing can explain or rationalize human existence. There is no answer to “Why am I?” Humans exist in a meaningless, irrational universe and any search for order will bring them into direct conflict with this universe.

12 EDGAR DEGAS “L’absinthe” (1876) Alienation or Estrangement From all other humans From human institutions From the past From the future We only exist right now, right here…

13 EDVARD MUNCH Night in Saint Cloud (1890) Nothingness and Death

14 Death hangs over all of us. Our awareness of it can bring freedom or anguish. “Nothingness is our inherent lack of self. We are in constant pursuit of a self. Nothingness is the creative well-spring from which all human possibilities can be realized.” –Jean- Paul Sartre Nothingness and Death

15 Freedom: Choice and Commitment Humans have freedom to choose Each individual makes choices that create his or her own nature Because we choose, we must accept risk and responsibility for wherever our commitments take us “A human being is absolutely free and absolutely responsible. Anguish is the result.” –Jean-Paul Sartre

16 MAN RAY Les Larmes (Tears) Dread and Anxiety

17 Anxiety stems from our understanding and recognition of the total freedom of choice that confronts us every moment, and the individual’s confrontation with nothingness.

18 Some Famous Existentialists Søren Kierkegaard ( )Søren Kierkegaard ( ) Friedrich Nietzsche ( )Friedrich Nietzsche ( ) Jean-Paul Sartre ( )Jean-Paul Sartre ( ) Albert Camus ( )Albert Camus ( ) “A woman is not born…she is created.” de Beauvoir’s most famous text is The Second Sex (1949), which some claim is the basis for current gender studies…

19 Nihilism is the state of belief in nothing “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothing to lose.” (Bob Dylan) A nihilist refuses to see this possibility. For the nihilist, when you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothing to win

20 Existential Literature Three people to know: Jean-Paul Sartre ( ), Albert Camus ( ) and Simone de Beauvoir ( )

21 Albert Camus: The Smiling Sisyphus

22 Camus publishes this non-fiction work a year after completing The Stranger. In this retelling of the myth of Sisyphus, he embodies his concept of the Absurd. The story concludes with Camus’ pivotal philosophical statement: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” To understand his point, we must understand the themes that his writing explores. THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

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