Seminar Overview

The seminar will meet four afternoons a week – Monday through Thursday – from 1:00 until around 4:30. (Snacks will be available from 12:30 p.m.) There will be two sessions each afternoon with a 15-minute break between them. There will be a primary and subsidiary text for each session, each authored by one of the philosophers we will be studying in addition to supplementary texts. Sessions will generally be discussion based, although I will also provide a context for understanding and interpreting the texts we discuss. After each session, we will have the option of continuing our discussions over a coffee in a local establishment not far from the seminar.

The readings for each week will be drawn from both the central thinkers in the Existentialist movement and other important writers and philosophers who influenced or were influenced by Existentialism: Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Franz Fanon. To illustrate the breadth of Existentialism as a cultural movement as well as its impact on society more generally, we will also screen films that show the influence of Existentialist ideas. I have chosen each film because it amplifies the theme we will be discussing that week. A discussion will follow the film screening.

All participants, who will be designated NEH Summer Scholars, are expected to be fully engaged in all aspects of the seminar. This includes coming to every seminar meeting having done the reading and prepared to discuss them. We will break up into small groups each afternoon for a short preliminary session so that we can begin the session with participants discussing their understanding of the readings with one another. We will then come together and broaden the discussion into a seminar-wide one. After the break, if the discussion has come to a resting place, I will then introduce some of the more difficult philosophical ideas with a quick lecture. Some of the background material simply requires this, but we will quickly move to a discussion format.

Although our group meetings will officially be over by 4:15, I will stay around to meet with seminar participants individually or in small groups. I will schedule two meetings with each participant during the three weeks of the seminar, but will be available for further conferences as well. I hope that we might also have some informal discussions on topics related to the seminar and I am happy to work with individual participants about issues that concern them.
 The seminar will begin on the evening of July 16 with a reception. The location will be announced later. Seminar participants will receive a stipend of $2,700 for their participation. This will be paid in two installments. Participants will have to pay for their travel, housing, and other expenses out of this stipend.