Spring 2009

Black Existentialism

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-55


John Erwin Drabinski (Section 01)


(D) During the middle decades of the twentieth century, existentialism dominated the European philosophical and literary scene. Prominent theorists such as J. P. Sartre, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty put the experience of history, alienation, and the body at the center of philosophical and literary life. It should be no surprise, then, that existentialism appealed to so many Afro-Caribbean and African-American thinkers of the same period and after. This course examines the critical transformation of European existentialist ideas through close readings of black existentialists Aime C├ęsaire, Frantz Fanon, George Lamming, and Wilson Harris, paired with key essays from Sartre, Camus, and Merleau-Ponty. As well, we will engage black existentialism not just as a series of claims, but also as a method, which allows us to read works by African-American writers such as W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison in an existentialist frame. Lastly, we will consider the matter of how and why existentialism continues to function so centrally in contemporary Africana philosophy. Although Black Studies 11 and 12 are not required for admission, preference will go to those who have taken one or both of these courses. Offered once Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Drabinski.