History of Existentialism

History of Existentialism

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This paper will explore all the aspects of the literary movement first present in the 19th century, existentialism. It will discuss the different climates, including social, political, and economic, that the literary movement was present during. Combining the basic dictionary definition and the numerous interpretations writers grasp from existentialism, the information provided will deepen the understanding of the origins, popularity, and breadth of the topic. Touching upon the works of famous existentialistic writers, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, Luigi Pirandello, and Albert Camus, this paper will cover the whole existentialism period.

To doubt the idea that existentialism has affected the way society thinks, the way people perceive others, and, most importantly, the way people define their own beings is absurd. It is quite evident that this philosophy has shaped the world, and in turn, transformed the climate into an introspective one. According to Merriam Webster’s (2011) dictionary, existentialism is defined as "a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad." Basic definition, however, will not suffice the task of truly understanding this movement and, therefore, an analysis of existentialism will help to reveal the different aspects of this noted literary movement.
Existentialism was born during a tough time in history. First emerging in the late 19th century, existentialism
The world took a strong liking to the existentialistic movement. Select countries, such as Sicily, United States, France, Russia, and Germany, bore different writers and philosophers. Such literary masterminds as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Ralph Ellison, Luigi Pirandello, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky have fallen under the label of existentialistic writers, though several writers refrain from conforming to the title. Therefore, as to correspond to the variance of people who may or may not call themselves existentialists, but in fact are, existentialism can be found in not just fictional novels, but also in analytical papers, memoirs, and nonfictional pieces. Works produced, from Camus’ The Stranger to Sartre’s essay entitled “Truth and Existence”, embodied the existentialism movement and covered all of the complexities of the period.
Ultimately, existentialism was an important movement in the 20th century and was the base for a transformation for the entire world.

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Although it existed during trying times in history, it succeeded in allowing writers to write about themes, including existence before essence, near and dear to philosophers’ hearts. Still present today, this literary movement is one that exhibited the climate of the world during its primary time and the climate of the written works which they overpowered.



Works Cited

Barrett, W(1964). What is existentialism? New York: Grove Press, Inc.
Crowell, S. (2010, October 11). Existentialism. Retrieved August 2, 2011, from
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“existentialism.” 2011. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved July 23, 2011, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existentialism
Olson, R(1962). An introduction to existentialism. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Sartre, J(1957). Existentialism and human emotions. (pp. 9-51) New York: Philosophical Library, Inc.
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