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De Beauvoir, Existentialism and Marx

A Dialectic on Freedom

Angela Shepherd

. I will argue that the complexity of de Beauvoir’s account is informed by her acceptance, alongside her existentialism, of Marxism. I argue that by examining de Beauvoir’s work in the light of Marx, we can resolve some of the tensions previously

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Stuart Hanscomb

This article explores the relationship between existentialism and the horror genre. Noël Carroll and others have proposed that horror monsters defy established categories. Carroll also argues that the emotion they provoke - 'art-horror' - is a 'composite' of fear and disgust. I argue that the sometimes horrifying images and metaphors of Sartre's early philosophy, which correlate with nausea and anxiety, have a non-coincidental commonality with art-horror explained by existentialism's preoccupation with the interstitial nature of the self. Further, it is argued that, as with some of the more sophisticated examples of the horror genre, the way for existential protagonists like Roquentin and Gregor Samsa to meet the challenge of the horrifying involves an accommodation of these features of the existential condition within their developing identity, which results in them appearing monstrous to others. Lastly, it is claimed that the association between existentialism and art-horror can explain the (paradoxical) appeal of horror.

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David Drake

This article considers Sartre's relations with the French Communist Party (PCF) in the years immediately following the Liberation when the PCF considered that, of all the prominent French intellectuals, it was Sartre who posed the greatest threat. This article opens by situating the PCF within the French political landscape immediately after the Liberation and addressing its attitudes towards intellectuals. It then examines the main themes of the attacks launched by the PCF, between 1944 and the staging of Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands) in 1948, on both Sartre and existentialism and the reasons for these attacks. It concludes by noting the differences between the PCF and Sartre on three specific political issues during this period.

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Craig Vasey

In 1945, the day after his famous public lecture on existentialism, Sartre gave an interview to a reporter at the café Le Flore; in it, he talks more about his novels The Age of Reason and The Reprieve than about Being and Nothingness, and he talks about the project for the future volume, The Last Chance. In this article I touch on how he reiterates points from the famous lecture in the interview, but especially on some of his comments about Mathieu and Brunet in terms of freedom and 'bad faith'. I move on to discuss why the next volume, Death in the Soul (translated in the USA as Troubled Sleep), was not the final one, and why The Last Chance was never completed. Then I turn to the largely unrecognized fact that the American translation of the third volume distorts Sartre's text for 150 pages by failing to show that he wrote the action of all of Part II in the present tense without paragraph breaks; I will offer an interpretation of this tense choice on Sartre's part.

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Rudi Visker

A few years ago, while reading Sartre’s ‘reflections on the Jewish question’ in the course of a seminar on Being and Nothingness,1 I was literally dumbfounded by the uncanny similarity between some of Sartre’s expressions and what I had written myself under the influence of authors like Lyotard or Lacan, whom I took to be his antipodes. The more I read, the less difference I saw and the more I underwent a kind of depersonalisation.

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James Gibbs

This study of Sartre's first novel seeks to move beyond the metaphysical constraints that are implicit when specifically focusing on either the work's literary or philosophical qualities, instead approaching the text as metafiction. Through an understanding of the novel's self-referentiality, its awareness of its accordance to narrative technique or reliance on existential verbatim, one gains an understanding of Sartre's fascination with the dialogue that exists between literature and philosophy. The examination of La Nausée and its Anglo-American criticism leads to a re-evaluation of the role of bad faith, in which character, author and, particularly, reader, are implicit. For reading is, like Roquentin's concluding understanding of existence, a balancing-act between the in-itself and the for-itself; an interaction with bad faith in which it is the individual/the reader that is responsible for attributing meaning to experience/La Nausée.

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Dennis A. Gilbert

My article focuses on Le Théâtre existentialiste (Existentialist Theater) by Simone de Beauvoir, recently translated and published in the volume of the Beauvoir Series on her literary writings. The first part introduces the original sound recording of this text and the circumstances behind its possible production in New York City in 1947 and my discovery of it at Wellesley College in 1996. The second part analyzes the divisions of Beauvoir's remarks as she presents Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and their principal plays from the period of the Occupation: The Flies, No Exit, and Caligula. The third part then evaluates certain of Beauvoir's key concepts in terms of how they were able to define adequately the substance of existentialist theater for a postwar American audience and whether they remain valid for a more contemporary theatrical public some six decades later.

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Dane Sawyer

In this article, I reconsider the question of how best to understand Sartre's concept of bad faith by investigating it through the Derridean lens of deconstruction. I argue that Sartre's discussion of bad faith in Being and Nothingness mirrors Derrida's criticisms of structuralism in 'Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences'. Examining their distinctive discussions of 'play', I claim that Derrida's unique deconstructive interpretation of this notion operates within Sartre's criticisms of the 'spirit of seriousness'. I reinterpret bad faith as the attempt to solidify a permanent structure of one's personality, in order to avoid or escape from the 'play' or 'freedom' built into structures and our existential condition, and conclude that embracing 'play' is an essential characteristic of authenticity.

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Michael J. Monahan

In his Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre argues that it is the milieu of scarcity that generates human conflict. His account of scarcity is rather ambiguous however, and at points he seems to claim that conflict is inevitable given the context of scarcity. In this article I provide a brief account of Sartre's position, and offer a critical evaluation of that position. Finally, I argue that Sartre's claims regarding the necessity of conflict are excessive, and that the resources provided in the Critique offer a means to re-evaluate our relationship to scarcity.

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Kathryn T. Gines

Is Jean-Paul Sartre to be credited for Richard Wright's existentialist leanings? This essay argues that while there have been noteworthy philosophical exchanges between Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Richard Wright, we can find evidence of Wright's philosophical and existential leanings before his interactions with Sartre and Beauvoir. In particular, Wright's short story "The Man Who Lived Underground" is analyzed as an existential, or Black existential, project that is published before Wright met Sartre and/or read his scholarship. Existentialist themes that emerge from Wright's short story include flight, guilt, life, death, dread, and freedom. Additionally, it is argued that "The Man Who Lived Underground" offers a reversal of the prototypical allegory of the cave that we find in the Western (ancient Greek) philosophical tradition. The essay takes seriously the significance of the intellectual exchanges between Sartre, Beauvoir, and Wright while also highlighting Wright's own philosophical legacy.