A Moment of True Feeling (Magill's Literary Annual 1978)
Existentialism is in many ways a philosophy of despair. It is the ultimate reaction to an age beset with such evils as totalitarianism, compulsion, conformity, overorganization, mass irresponsibility, violence, and potential annihilation. It postulates that modern existence is a meaningless absurdity polluting an indifferent universe, and it emphasizes the isolation of the individual who, because of his fundamental nature, must remain a stranger to all about him. Its themes underlie a great deal of contemporary art, drama, music, and literature: isolation, alienation, noncommunication, discord, jarring or shattering impacts upon the senses. In terms of much traditional belief, it is spiritual nihilism. It informs us that God is dead and that each person is utterly alone in a world where all semblance of meaning is illusory.
This is not to say that existentialism is without its positive aspects, for its great virtue lies in its recognition that each individual human being is unique, unlike any other person who has existed before or will exist again; that each person can shape—indeed, has the responsibility to shape—his own destiny; and that individual acts not only matter but have a direct influence upon the world in which we live. The moral and ethical implications of this concept are obvious. The slogan “God is dead” does not necessarily deny a...
(The entire section is 2168 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Hansen, Olaf. “Exorcising Reality,” in New Boston Review. IV (Summer, 1978), p. 5.
Jurgensen, Manfred, ed. Peter Handke: Ansatze-Analysen-Anmerkungen, 1979.
Klinkowitz, Jerome, and James Knowlton. Peter Handke and the Postmodern Transformation, 1983.
Renner, Rolf Gunter. Peter Handke, 1985.
Schlueter, June. The Plays and Novels of Peter Handke, 1981.
Wilkie, Brian, and James Hurt. “Peter Handke,” in Literature of the Western World, 1984.
(The entire section is 55 words.)