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Spring Seminar

Graduate Seminar, Spring 2022

Monday, 7:00 - 9:50 p.m.
January 17, 2022 – April 25, 2022

MLS 556 Existentialism and Its Discontents (taught remotely)
Existentialism was one of the most popular philosophical trends in the twentieth century, attracting philosophers and artists who sought to wrestle with the most personal and ultimate questions of meaning in the face of rising rationalism and scientific positivism. In part, Existentialism was rooted in the view that philosophy should be a way of life, practical and engaged, rather than mere abstract theorizing by elite intellectuals. Consequently, some of the deepest expressions of this philosophy have been in popular literature and film, which will be the focus of our seminar. This course will explore the artistic and ideological roots of the Existentialist movement in the 19th century with writers like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky. It will examine the explosion of Existentialist thinking in the 20th century, especially in France through the literature of Sartre, De Beauvoir, and Camus. And, finally, it will consider more recent critiques of Existentialism from the vantage of philosopher-novelists like Iris Murdoch. Emphasis will be on the artistic expressions of Existentialism, particularly the novel as a form of philosophical exploration. Other Existentialist artists and philosophers to be considered may include De Unamuno, Bergman, Frankl, and Buber.

with Faculty Guest Speakers