Nihilism and Literature Criticism: Nihilism In The Works Of Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, And John Barth - Essay

Joseph J. Waldmeir (essay date 1966)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “John Barth and the Novel of Comic Nihilism,” in Critical Essays on John Barth, G. K. Hall & Co., 1980, pp. 14-29.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1966, Waldmeir investigates John Barth's affinity with the nihilistic tradition and his preoccupation with suicide.]


When Nietzsche announced the death of God toward the end of the nineteenth century, he also added further stimulus to one of the obsessive themes of contemporary literature—the problem of the loss of value and meaning in human life and the search for new value and meaning to replace the old. And since Nietzsche's conception of the...

(The entire section is 8103 words.)

Charles I. Glicksberg (essay date 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Albert Camus: From Nihilism to Revolt,” in The Literature of Nihilism, Bucknell University Press, 1975, pp. 198-209.

[In the following essay, Glicksberg examines Camus' attitude toward nihilist philosophy as evinced in his work, contending that his fiction is actually “protests against the fate of meaninglessness.”]

Camus simply lived through and documented what Nietzsche saw looming up in the twentieth century: namely, the nihilism which would result while the technological world adapted to its horrifying discovery that God was very, very dead, and that there was no ultimate and absolute meaning to either human life or the universe:...

(The entire section is 4266 words.)

Wilhelm Emrich (essay date 1977)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Franz Kafka and Literary Nihilism,” in Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 6, No. 3, September, 1977, pp. 366-79.

[In the following essay, Emrich analyzes Kafka's complex relationship to nihilism.]

That the political movement known as Nihilism originated in Russia is a well-known fact of modern history. Literary nihilism, a much less consciously organized movement, also has its origins in Russia. The word “nihilism” first emerges in Turgenev's novel Fathers and Sons (1862), where the young Bazarov, a representative of Western materialism and radical sceptical thinking, is described as a nihilist. In the following violent debate over this figure,...

(The entire section is 6489 words.)