English 121/Philosophy 141: Topics in Continental Philosophy: Søren Kierkegaard and Existentialism

This course entails in-depth study of one or more figures or topics in continental philosophy. The emphases for spring 2016 will be existentialism and phenomenology, with an additional turn toward the writings and life-world of the 19th-century Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard, a foundational existentialist thinker who famously wrote that, “the self which is the aim is not just a personal self, but a social, a civic self. So he has himself as a task for an activity through which, as this determinate personal being, he intervenes in the affairs of life.”

The course is focused on existentialism and phenomenology introduces thinkers like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, de Beauvoir, Camus and Sartre, as well as Dostoevsky, Ellison and de Unamuno, and traces how those thinkers (as well as their influences) and developments challenged and impacted the western intellectual tradition across the twentieth century. We pay close attention to the shifts in categories, method and concepts for the articulation of consciousness that expands and troubles reason-centered approaches, and also examine how existentialists and phenomenologists have handled their own discontents. Discussion of philosophical texts will almost always be accompanied by films, novels, stories, and other literary and cultural materials.