Leaders: John Murphy

Description: For a serious writer like Albert Camus, philosophical ideas, especially those associated with Existentialism, are central to his novels, essays, and drama. Inheriting the essential intellectual and philosophic ideas current in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Camus' unique writing style and dramatically expressed major thoughts are remarkable for their emphasis on individual freedom and responsibility, the value of human dignity, and the crucial idea that, in the face of an absurd universe, humans must nonetheless strive to incorporate reason and value into their lives.

Essentially and existentially, he asked, "What is literature and philosophy for, if not to justify and to enhance our difficult, problematic journey through existence?" Furthermore, we must be prepared to deal with this major question on our own limited terms, without recourse to religious, spiritual, or metaphysical justifications that exceed purely human exploration. We can only know the world and ourselves through our own thoughts and actions.  For conscious human beings, nothing can be more significant than to respond positively to the Socratic dictums "The unexamined life is not worth living" and "Know thyself." Elegantly, forcefully, Camus' literary genius helps us confront Socrates' assertions and incorporate them into our personal thinking.

As background reading, it would be helpful if everyone had the chance to read or reread Camus' short novel The Stranger before classes begin.  We should be prepared to devote two weeks to each of the following works: The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus, and The Fall. I would encourage class members to spend significant time in reflecting and wondering about the controversial, provocative implications of these readings. Our class meetings will begin with modest introductory remarks made by the instructor and followed by intense and enlightened discussion among class members. Above all else, we should appreciate and enjoy the search by a serious writer for what is termed "the good life".

Biography:  John Murphy is Emeritus Professor of English at Bucknell University and currently lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and Chamonix, France. He has also taught English literature in Michigan, Wisconsin, Italy, Zaire, England, and France.

Materials for course: The above works can be found easily online or ordered through most bookstores.

Number of participants

Maximum: 13

Location: RidgeCrest at Riverwoods - Creative Arts Room  

Meeting time: Wednesdays, February 26 through April 2, 2014, 1 - 2:30 p.m.


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