Pricking Us into Revolt? Vonnegut, DeLillo and Sartre's Hope for Literature

in Sartre Studies International
Author: Damon Boria
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As seen in his enthusiastic praise of John Dos Passos's 1919, Sartre evaluated literary works by how effectively they aim to play a role in fundamental social change. This essay has two goals. One is to show that Sartre's endorsement of committed literature is not undercut if literature fails to play a role in fundamental social change and the other is to show at least some of the ways in which committed literature is successful. Both goals are pursued through a consideration of the literary works of Kurt Vonnegut and Don DeLillo. The former was mentioned briefly but favorably by Sartre in 1971 and the latter, while lacking such direct ties to Sartre, was accused of “sandbox existentialism.” I read both writers as arguments in favor of Sartre's instrumentalist take on literature.

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture

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