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Existentialism in Philosophy and the Arts
Undergraduate Program Status
Course Description

Existentialism was a philosophical movement that took place in the early and mid -20th century with precursors in the 19th century. We will read the four most important philosophers that belong to this movement: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre. Existentialism was also a cultural, literary and artistic movement outside of philosophy. We will discuss some of examples of it in theatre, literature and film. Some of the most important issues concern the distinct features and challenges of being human, ideas about finding meaning in life and leading an authentic existence. Class format will be a mixture of interactive lecture and discussion.

Learning Outcomes

Students will enhance their skills at reading, discussing, analyzing and writing on difficult historical and contemporary literary and philosophical texts. Students will also come to have a familiarity with a central part of the Western literary and philosophical canon. Finally, students will be better positioned to think about contemporary philosophy, literature and life’s enduring challenges.


Required: attendance, reading, participation, one, ungraded short class presentation aimed at prompting discussion. Strong participation and presentation can raise grade. Grade is based on 3 components, each of which counts for 33% of the grade. 2 take-home essay exams (33% each. A list of questions will be passed out in advance, of which a selected three will appear on the day of the exam. 1 final 2000-word paper due at end of the term. Topics and criteria to be discussed in advance.

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