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