This overview of Sartre's theater within the context of the symposium focuses on the inherent ambiguities of his theory and practice. His plays, as committed literature, are not always successful in their pedagogical intention of changing the minds of his audiences. On the one hand, he seeks to provide universal situations with which everyone can collectively identify, and on the other he wishes to convince them of the value of freedom and confront them with problems and conflicts they must resolve for themselves. These spectators then exercise that freedom by taking ideological viewpoints that are in conflict with those of the plays. Moreover, the plays are often complex and ambiguous, and set far from a contemporary French context, thus demanding a certain sophistication of interpretation. Sartre's skill as a dramatist is to write plays that engage the public in debates about the key questions of the day, even though, because of his open approach, he does not always succeed in changing their minds.
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.
Literature, for Sartre, it could be said, is not so much an object of theory as the focus of a question. The notion of 'committed literature' is less prescriptive than it is interrogative: the title of the text most commonly associated with 'littérature engagée' is, after all, a question about literature itself, and the nature of 'commitment' lends itself much more to a practice of contestation than to implementation of any particular programme. In what follows, I shall be examining some of the ways in which Sartre makes literature synonymous with a question. And I shall be arguing that the very terms in which literature is presented as a form of self-contestation make biography, rather than theory, the arena in which the notion of literature is most extensively opened up.
Sartre lecteur de Brice Parain
In this paper we examine the dialogue between Sartre and one of his contemporaries, the philosopher of language, Brice Parain. First, after clarifying what is common and different in their backgrounds, we will see that Sartre and Parain share a common belief that language itself has taken ill, as a result of the First World War, an illness for which both feel a need to find a remedy. Secondly, we will show how Sartre's reading of Parain allowed him to construct a theory of language that is consistent with his own humanism and the principles of committed literature. Finally, we will examine the influence of the religious dimension of Parain's argument on Sartre's theory of authorship.
Cet article examine un dialogue important mais peu étudié entre Sartre et le philosophe du langage Brice Parain. Les deux écrivains constatent un mal du langage, issu de la Grande Guerre de 1914-18 et de ses traumatismes que les mots proférés par les survivants sont incapables de prendre en charge. Dans ce monde « inhumain », où trouver un remède ? Pour Parain et Sartre le retour à n'importe quel humanisme implique une réflexion sur le langage. A travers sa lecture de Parain et ce qu'il propose, Sartre repense les bases de sa propre conception du langage d'une manière qui lui permet de développer son propre humanisme et les principes de la littérature engagée. Mais la dimension religieuse de l'argumentation de Parain, écartée par Sartre, laisse-t-elle des traces sur la conception sartrienne de l'auteur ?
David Detmer and John Ireland
, whose Cassandra can also be seen as an extreme avatar of Sartre’s dashed hopes for committed literature. The next three articles focus on Sartre’s philosophy. Gavin Rae’s topic is the relationship between Sartre’s thought and that of Jacques Derrida
John Ireland and Constance Mui
There has rarely been a writer and thinker who saw his writing as more tied to his age than Jean-Paul Sartre. His notion of committed literature argued that writing and thought are anchored first and foremost in their “situation,” the period and
Freedom, Subjectivity and Progress
Kimberly S. Engels
of the practico-inert. Gyllenhammer argues that in Sartre’s examples of committed literature and the spread of atheism, we see the practico-inert operating as a positive force of progress. He draws on Sartre’s works What Is Literature? and Mallarmé
Boycott, Scandals, and the Fight for Peace
politically committed literature” (24 September 1954). After four years of failures, the city’s first performance of Schmutzige Hände took place on 24 September 1954 and, being “one of the best we’ve seen in Vienna” ( Die Presse , 2 October 1954 ), was met
Sartre’s Article on Kafka and the Fantastic
committed literature ( littérature engagée ) – that his earlier writings on literature have generally received less critical attention. 1 Collected in the first volume of Situations (1947) and published in well-known journals between 1938 and 1943, many
Connective Agency and the Aesthetics of the Egyptian Revolution
, as opposed to radically resonant and transformative artistic forms. A few writers of the caliber of the Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannus have recognized the limits of politically committed literature in general, which he saw as still offering