Existentialism

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Topics for Further Study

(Literary Movements for Students)

Describe the plot of a movie that you have seen that you would call “Existential,” and explain what you think are the existential elements about it.

Writers have noted that the American way of life, with its emphasis on personal freedom, is particularly well-suited to existential thought. Write a dialog between Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the U.S. Constitution, and Jean- Paul Sartre, the key figure in Existentialism, with each character explaining his position to the other.

Research the basic beliefs of Zen Buddhism, and compare them to those of Existentialism, pointing out how they are alike and how they differ.

Some critics have charged that Americans are too commercial to accept an abstract philosophical concept. Design an advertising campaign to “sell” Existentialism to the general public.

Look through newspapers and magazines for examples of what the existentialist writers would call “bad faith,” and discuss them in class.