- Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism
(Reading for Masters Thesis)
I am reading this transcript of Sartre's 1945 lecture defending Existentialism from charges made against it by the Christians and the Communists. The editor, Annie Cohen-Solal, in the introduction decries this book as NOT being a good introduction to Sartre's Existentialism, but I fully disagree with her. If you've not read much philosophy or have never read any of Sartre's huge, intricate tome Being and Nothingness, Existentialism is a Humanism provides an excellent primer to Sartre's theories.
I am especially appreciating how Sartre conveys Existentialism as a philosophy of optimism rather than pessimism, which one could too easily feel when confronted with the terms "anguish, dread, despair, abandonment, alienation," etc. He avers that:
"[...R]eality alone counts. Man is nothing but a series of of enterprises, and that he is the sum, organization, and aggregate of the relations that constitute such enterprises.
What matters is the total commitment. [Existentialism is not ...] a philosophy of quietism, since it defines a man by his actions, nor can it be called a pessimistic description of man, for no doctrine is more optimistic since it declares that man's destiny lies within himself."
(emphasis added, 38-40)
- The Life Room by Jill Bialosky
(Reading for FUN!)
I picked this one up off the "New Books" bookshelf at the library, intrigued by the cover which features a woman with one green eye and one blue eye (which I'll admit to pulling off last week to save contacts for the job interview. I had a sample green contact so I wore it alongside my regular, clear contact in one--giving me one blue eye and one green. That really freaked my students out!).
Turns out that this is a well-written book--compelling, with gorgeous word choice; a reminiscence of a woman's past loves from childhood to adulthood (as I understand it thus far, 100 pages in.)
"Her mother invited her best friends [...] They formed their own foursome, a group of women from the neighborhood whose husbands had either abandoned them, or died, or divorced them. She [Eleanor, the main character] learned from them that you could fill an entire lunch talking about fabrics for your couch or the color to paint your walls. She also learned that it was possible to survive disappointment if you chose to, or disappointment could put a dam in the middle of your life and you'd never be able to move forward. She learned that love could last a lifetime or a day, that there were all kinds of possibilities for losing faith or finding it. She learned that if you did not have faith, if you did not fulfill your dreams, they might hibernate in your head, creating such friction you couldn't lift it from the pillow." (emphasis added, 61)
"Adam explained how a painter seals a canvas with a layer of gesso, that gesso used to be mixed with rabbit-skin glue and that it is used to prime a canvas before a painter begins to paint with oils. He explained that oil rots fabric, hence the reason for priming it. That always seemed an interesting irony. That oil paint, the material a painter uses to create beauty, has the capacity to rot the fabric it is applied to. As if all beauty is capable of ruin." (emphasis added, 91)