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

Damon Boria

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.

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Reflection, Memory and Selfhood in Jean-Paul Sartre's Early Philosophy

Lior Levy

The article advances an interpretation of the self as an imaginary object. Focusing on the relationship between selfhood and memory in Sartre's The Transcendence of the Ego, I argue that Sartre offers useful resources for thinking about the self in terms of narratives. Against interpretations that hold that the ego misrepresents consciousness or distorts it, I argue that the constitution of the ego marks a radical transformation of the conscious field. To prove this point, I turn to the role of reflection and memory in the creation of the self. Reflection and memory weave past, present and future into a consistent and meaningful life story. This story is no other than the self. I propose to understand the self as a fictional or imaginary entity, albeit one that has real presence in human life.

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Sartre et le fantôme du Père

Alexis Chabot

In , Sartre elevates the premature death of his father to the rank of a providential event which, by depriving him of a Super-Ego and relieving him of any legacy, consigned him to contingency and condemned him to be free. In this way, Sartre derives his uniqueness from this happy lack, this salutary void, i.e. a negated father, and casts himself in the role of an Aeneas liberated from the weight of his Anchises. Fatherless son, Sartre was nonetheless condemned to return incessantly to a father who was destined to remain imaginary. The omnipresence of paternal figures in his oeuvre, from “Childhood of a Leader” to by way of and , is the expression of a double project, as systematic as it is paradoxical: to incarnate the Father, interrogate him and place him centre-stage—as he does with Flaubert's father—in order to eliminate all the better, through an unrelenting prosecution, that of which the Father is, in Sartre's view, the crystallization: the past, inheritance, the temptation of inauthenticity, the alienation of freedom by a foreign power. The Sartrean Father reveals in a privileged way the heart-rending paradoxes of freedom.

French Dans Les Mots, J.-P. Sartre hisse la mort précoce de son père à la hauteur d'un événement providentiel qui, le privant de Surmoi et le délestant de tout héritage, le livra à la contingence et le condamna à être libre. Ainsi Sartre tire sa singularité de ce manque heureux, de ce vide salutaire, un père nié, et se dépeint en Enée libéré du poids de son Anchise. Fils sans père, Sartre n'en fut pas moins condamné à revenir sans fin à ce père voué à demeurer imaginaire : l'omniprésence des figures paternelles dans son œuvre, de L'Enfance d'un chef à L'Idiot de la famille, en passant par Le Scénario Freud et Les Séquestrés d'Altona, est l'expression d'un double projet, aussi systématique que paradoxal : incarner le Père, l'interroger et le mettre en scène - ainsi du père de Flaubert -, pour mieux liquider, par une mise en procès permanente, ce dont la figure du Père est, à ses yeux, la cristallisation : le passé, l'héritage, la tentation de l'inauthenticité, l'aliénation de la liberté par une puissance étrangère. Le Père sartrien se révèle dès lors comme le révélateur privilégié des paradoxes déchirants de la liberté.

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Sartre's Spirit of Seriousness and the Bad Faith of “Must-See” Tourism

Danielle M. LaSusa

This article explores the Sartrean concept of the spirit of seriousness so as to better understand contemporary sightseeing tourism. Sartre's spirit of seriousness involves two central characteristics: the first understands values as transcendent, fixed objects, and the second—less acknowledged—understands material, physical objects as instantiating these transcendent values. I interpret the behavior of at least some contemporary tourists who travel to “mustsee” destinations as a subscription to both aspects of the spirit of seriousness and to a belief that the objects and destinations of tourist sites contain these transcendent, immutable values, such as “Art,” “Culture,” “Liberty,” etc. These “must-see” objects and destinations can thereby be understood to make “obligatory demands” of tourists, compelling them to visit. I argue that this serious mode of traveling to “must-see” sites is a form of Sartrean bad faith, as well as an evasion of the potential existential anguish that travel can evoke.

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Book Reviews

Jean-Pierrte Boulé, Nik Farrell-Fox, Rebecca Pitt, and Bradley Stephens

Bradley Stephens, Victor Hugo, Jean-Paul Sartre and the Liability of Liberty Review by Jean-Pierre Boulé

Jonathan Webber (ed.), Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism Review by Nik Farrell-Fox

Christina Howells, Mortal Subjects: Passions of the Soul in Late Twentieth-Century French Thought Review by Rebecca Pitt

Felicity Joseph, Jack Reynolds and Ashley Woodward (eds.), The Continuum Companion to Existentialism Review by Nik Farrell-Fox

Jean-Pierre Boulé and Enda McCaffrey (eds.), Existentialism and Contemporary Cinema: A Sartrean Perspective Review by Bradley Stephens

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Catastrophe, Adherence, Proximity Sartre (with Barthes) in the Cinema

Patrick Ffrench

Sartre's recollection, in Les Mots, of his first visit to the cinema is a multi-layered and ambivalent text through which Sartre proposes a number of interlocking arguments: concerning the contrast between the 'sacred' space of the theatre and the non-ceremonial space of the cinema, between the theatre as associated with paternal authority, and the cinema as associated with a clandestine bond with the mother. But the text also sets up a quasi-sociological account of the public Sartre encounters in the cinema itself as revealing to him the truth of the social bond, a truth he expresses with the term 'adherence', and which he says he only rediscovered in his experience of being a prisoner in the Stalag in 1940. Rather than the basis of a sociological account of the social bond, which would seem at odds with Sartre's social philosophy, I read this as the expression of a desire for physical proximity. The space of the cinema thus develops a fantasy, and this is in continuity with the role of the cinema in the evolution traced in Les Mots, in which it is described as instigating a withdrawal into imaginary life and an indulgence in daydreaming. Through reference to Christian Metz and to Roland Barthes, whose essay 'En sortant du cinéma' is proposed as a parallel and a response to Sartre, I suggest that the 'true bond' of adherence which Sartre encounters is an unconscious rather than an epistemological truth.

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Drives as Original Facticity

Daniel O'Shiel

By introducing 'drives' into a Sartrean framework, 'being-in-itself' is interpreted as 'Nature as such', wherein instincts dominate. Being-for-itself, on the contrary, has an ontological nature diametrically opposed to this former - indeed, in the latter realm, through a fundamental process of 'nihilation' (Sartre's 'freedom') consciousness perpetually flees itself by transcending towards the world. However, a kernel of (our) nihilated Nature is left at the heart of this process, in the form of 'original facticity' that we here name drives. Drives are the original feelings and urges of a freed Nature that simply are there; they are the fundamental forces that consciousness qua freedom always has to deal with. Drives, in addition, can be nihilated in their own turn, onto a reflective, irreal plane, whereby they take the form of value. This means Sartre's notion of ontological desire is always made up of two necessary components: drives and value.

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From Shame towards an Ethics of Ambiguity

Ruth Kitchen

For Sartre, shame is not an ethical but an ontological experience. With this in mind, the article examines the philosophical connection between shame and ambiguity through analysis of the experiences of abortion and the Nazi Occupation. The article demonstrates how Beauvoir develops Sartre's ontological notion of shame into an ethical philosophy of ambiguity as a result of wartime experiences. It demonstrates how encounters with shame, abortion, ambiguity and Occupation life in Beauvoir's 1945 novel Le sang des autres elucidate and are developed by Sartre and Beauvoir's philosophies of shame and ambiguity. The paper proposes that Sartre's and Beauvoir's thought was shaped by living through the Nazi Occupation and reveals how the memory of wartime shame is activated in contemporary ethical dilemmas in later literary works of both writers.

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Negativistic Ethics in Sartre

Patrick Engel

This article interprets Sartre's ethical reflections as leading to a negativistic ethics, that is to say an ethics that denies the possibility of conceiving a positive ideal that has to be attained, and therefore limits itself to the criticising of the negative in the existing world as the only way left for ethics. After a brief introduction into negativism, the article sets out the negativism of Being and Nothingness and the metaethical dilemma that the ontological work poses for a conception of a traditional, positive ethics, which Sartre apparently tried to undertake in his Notebooks for an Ethics. Instead of speaking of a failure of Sartre's attempts to found a traditional ethics, the article shows how already in the Notebooks Sartre is on the way to establishing a conception of an ethics that can be called negativistic, and finally how the late Sartre attains, on the basis of the socio-ontological insights of his Critique of Dialectical Reason, a foundation for a genuinely negativistic ethics which he drafted in his 1964 Rome Lectures.

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The Notice Board seeks to publicise all matters relating to Sartre scholarship, most importantly publications, but also higher degrees (in progress or completed), forthcoming seminars and conferences. We are also pleased to publish conference reports and other Sartre news.