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Existentialism & Absurdist Thought. AP Literature and Composition K. Matteson. Absurdist Theater.

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existentialism absurdist thought

Existentialism & Absurdist Thought

AP Literature and Composition

K. Matteson

absurdist theater
Absurdist Theater
  • Theater of the Absurd came about as a reaction to World War II.  It took the basis of existential philosophy and combined it with dramatic elements to create a style of theatre which presented a world which can not be logically explained, life is in one word, ABSURD!
  • Needless to say, this genre of theatre took quite some time to catch on because it used techniques that seemed to be illogical to the theatre world.  The plots often deviated from the more traditional episodic structure, and seem to move in a circle, ending the same way it began.  The scenery was often unrecognizable, and to make matters worse, the dialogue never seemed to make any sense.
camus version of absurdism
Camus’ version of Absurdism:
  • Human beings are basically irrational and human suffering is the result of vain attempts by individuals to find reason or meaning in the absurd abyss of existence. (he must’ve been a lot of fun at parties, huh?)
suicide or life
Suicide or Life?
  • Camus claimed that the only true philosophical question was that of suicide. Should we bother living in a world without meaning or simply kill ourselves?
camus 3 possibilities
Camus’ 3 Possibilities:
  • Suicide to escape a meaningless world
  • Create an ‘artificial’ meaning like religion to fill one’s life
  • Realize life is meaningless and simply keep living (absurd heroes)
the absurd hero
The Absurd Hero
  • The absurd hero realizes his situation, does not appeal, and yet continues to struggle.
  • The absurd hero is also a man functioning in a society who feels that the values of his society are no longer applicable to him.
  • The absurd hero feels that he can only rely on himself
  • An absurd hero sometimes creates an “artificial” meaning like religion to fill ones life.
  • Some absurd heroes, like Meursault in The Stranger, see suicide as the only escape from a meaningless existence.
camus three absurd hero types
Camus’ three absurd hero types:

Each finds meaning in his/her own pursuits:

  • The Rebel
  • The Don Juan
  • The Artist
The Rebel: finds meaning in rejecting societal constraints
  • The Don Juan: finds meaning in physical attachments (love is everything)
  • The Artist: dedicates himself to beauty (man cannot be explained by history alone; he also finds a reason for his existence in the order of nature)
  • It is that every one of us, as an individual, is responsible for what we do, responsible for who we are, responsible for the way we face and deal with the world, responsible, ultimately, for the way the world is."It is, in a very short phrase, the philosophy of 'no excuses!' We cannot shift that burden onto God, or nature, or the ways of the world.”
  • What is life?
  • What is my place in it?
  • What choices does this obligate me to make?
simple existentialism
Simple Existentialism
  • Existence is everything
  • Reject society’s reality: you must make your own meaning of life
  • Do not dwell on the past or the future; present is everything (No after-life)
  • Physical experiences/sensual experiences are significant
existence precedes essence
Existence Precedes Essence

“What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means that, first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself.”

consider this question
Consider this question
  • Martin Heidegger once wrote: “Why is there something, rather than nothing?”
  • This statement is a direct response to the philosophy existentialism. What does it mean?