Existentialism & Lit of Crisis
In the first half of the 20th century, the Western World, in particular Europe, was beset by a continuous series of crises starting with World War I and culminating in the Holocaust and World War II. If modernism, in the manner of a seismograph, lists the tremors surrounding World War I, existentialism gives voice to the crises surrounding World War II. We will explore the various modes of existentialism that highlight the loneliness and disorientation of modern man who finds himself thrown into existence in a hostile or indifferent world. Alienation, angst, despair, the de-humanizing impact of mass culture, the experience of existence as absurd, as broken and fragmented, are key concepts in this crises. Yet ultimately, and in the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialism is a humanism, which means man is standing in the center of this shattered universe, trying to endow existence with meaning, with the freedom to choose, and with responsibility for one's acts.