The comment discussion of existentialism in the reading list post made me think back on why I dislike it so much, and what brought that opinion into, hahaha, existence.
Back in the day, when I was a young and eager first year college student, our professor professed a great passion for existentialism, and proceeded to explain it at a depth that she felt appropriate for folks taking a 1st year class; dipping a bit more deeply into what it was, though no where near the level of a course devoted to it.
And then she loaded us down with dozens of poems, short stories, novellas, and a couple of actual novels. We probably spent more time on this one type of literature than any other, and sort of squeezed in the rest of the normal standard first year stuff around it.
I have to say, she had a real knack for picking the grimmest, darkest, most depressing stuff possible. If there was something related to existentialism in a different era or tone, she picked it. And based on the comments, if she had a choice between a story that had humanity and one that fought against it, she picked the second one.
Looking back, I can see that had she been born in a different generation, she would have been a goth or an emo kid. She had a romantic view of existentialism (which is really weird, when you think about it), of flirting with death, that I was never going to ‘get’. She was also the head of the English department, so the people she would hire often had the same attitude toward existentialism. Epiphany time for me!
I’m a bit of a Taoist and a lot of a mystic (and was back then too). When I think of being a tiny bit of dust in the universe, this doesn’t fill me with fear or loathing, but a sense of community and belonging. When I acknowledge that we are all animals underneath the veneer of civilization, I don’t see the negative of this because I don’t judge animals as innately inferior or as mindless machines.
So, I think I was deeply influenced by one overly enthusiastic point of view, and I think the prof would be shocked at how many people she managed to turn against existentialism. I am still a bit begrudging at the idea of letting go of my aversion to existentialism; habit of a life time at this point. However, I’ve put a library request in for some Camus. We’ll see!