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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2004

E 379S • The Existentialist Novel from Dostoevsky to Sebald

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33235 MWF
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
PAR 204

Course Description

It is by now a commonplace that, beginning roughly in the mid-19th century, thinkers like Darwin, Marx, and Freud, along with many others, helped to reshape the self-conception of much of the "human race." That is, the intellectual revolution that occurred in the wake of these thinkers led many philosophers and artists to redefine the very notion of human being, and to rethink the relation of humans to each other, nature, and even, to speak grandly, the cosmos. Eventually, these intellectual tendencies crystallized as a philosophical movement (or attitude) known as "existentialism," and a novelistic tendency that is sometimes known as "the absurdist novel" or the "existential novel." These phrases, like the currents of thought they refer to, are vague and fluid. But we can isolate a core impulse in the ideas and fiction of this movement: the impulse to confront freshly the terms and conditions of what Heidegger called "being-in-the world."

Grading Policy

Grades will be based on three essays (4-5 typed pages for the first two, 8-10 typed pages for the third), each worth a bit less than one-third of the final grade. The remainder of the grade will depend on class participation. Students should come to class well prepared to discuss the assigned readings. Attendance is presumed: no one absent more than five classes will be given a passing grade.


Primary Texts (tentative(:

Fyodor Dostoevesky, Notes from Underground (1864)
Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925)
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926)
Louis-Ferdinand CĂ©line, Journey to the End of Night (1934)
Jean Paul Sartre, Nausea (1938)
Albert Camus, The Stranger Simone de Beauvoir, The Blood of Others
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
Samuel Beckett, Watt (1953)
W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (1995)

Secondary Texts:
(one of the following will be selected)

Robert Solomon, Existentialism
Walter Kaufmann, Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre


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