Document Type

Senior Award Winner

Award Date

Spring 2012

Course Name

Idea of the Individual course


Dr. Adam Kotlarczyk


Existentialism refers to a broad range of philosophical beliefs and related cultural phenomena. While its origins can be traced to the latter half of the 19th century, existentialism as a unified movement only gained serious traction, especially among literary circles, by the close of World Wars I and II, as writers contemplated the sheer man-made destruction and loss of life of these two wars. Though often confused with nihilism and absurdism, existentialism is a distinct philosophical movement that presents man as fundamentally unknowable through science, logic, or morality. Albert Camus, a French Algerian “Pied-Noir” settler, epitomized the sudden turn toward literary existentialism, developing his own unique sense of the term. In The Plague, Camus uses a dehumanizing plague in Oran, Algeria to both accept several core existential and absurdist ideas while at the same time rejecting others in place of a belief in man’s fundamental goodness, or potential to do good.



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