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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Wendy A. Wiseman
CHID 270
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Each special topics course examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework.

Class description

Students will gain a critical appreciation of one of the most powerful literary and philosophical movements of the 20th century, Existentialism. We will analyze what in both the human and the historical condition gave rise to the questions confronted by Existentialists: to whom am I responsible, given radical freedom? How can I find meaning in a world without divine security? Is suffering redemptive or simply a mark of animal mortality? We will read the great thinkers: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, as well as the poets of the age of anxiety: Kafka, Beckett, and Camus, with an eye to the place of the divine in individual works.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lecture three times per week, with open forum discussion at the end of each class. Sections once per week.

Recommended preparation

As this is an introductory course, there is no previous knowledge required. However, the reading load is significant and challenging, so a readiness to engage texts critically and creatively is vital to success in this course. Any background in Western thought and culture will be relevant to the issues we're discussing. If you would like some prep materials, I would suggest reading Kafka's The Metamorphosis (or anything else by Kafka) for summer fun. Also, Walter Kaufmann's "Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre" is a classic anthology with helpful commentary.

Class assignments and grading

Essay miderm and final, final paper, and very short weekly writing assignments.

The above, plus attendance and discussion in sections.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Wendy A. Wiseman
Date: 06/23/2006