The Impossible Project of Love in Sartre's Being and Nothingness, Dirty Hands and The Room

in Sartre Studies International
Author:
Jean Wyatt

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In Being and Nothingness (1943), Sartre explains love as a strategy for achieving control over "being-for-others," the objectified aspect of the self-imposed by others' defining looks. Two contemporaneous fictions by Sartre, The Room (1939) and Dirty Hands (1948), expand the notions of love and of being-for-others in surprising directions. Dirty Hands shows the creative, productive potential of being-for-others: Hugo's reliance on the other for his self-definition paradoxically generates his decisive embrace of being for-itself. The Room dramatizes the role of the family in constituting a child's subjectivity: Eve's family situation explains her ontological imprisonment in the dimension of being-for-others. The two stories' tolerant vision of the complex social and psychological reasons for adopting being-for-others as one's dominant modality contrasts with Sartre's rigorous critique of reliance on being-for-others as a form of bad faith in Being and Nothingness. The fictions' enlarged perspective on human love and on being-for-others provides a framework for complicating and critiquing the ontological categories presented in Being and Nothingness.

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture

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