PHIL141/ENG121 Existentialism & Phenomenology

Year offered

This topics course 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. Added pressure will be placed on the writings and lifeworld of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the 19th-century Danish thinker, and how his ideas traveled globally. 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 (we will carefully examine these terms) have handled their own discontents, crises, and moral and ethical dilemmas. Discussion of philosophical texts will almost always be accompanied by references to films, novels, stories, and other materials that demonstrate how the relationship between philosophy and literature deepen our understanding of existentialism and phenomenology.  


Either/Or (Kierkegaard)

The Concept of Anxiety (Kierkegaard)

Basic Writings of Existentialism (Marino)

Existentialism is a Humanism (Sartre)

The Essential Kierkegaard (Hong and Hong)

*Phenomenology: An Introduction (Kaufer and Chemero)


Week 1 (January 17 & January 19): Introduction

T. “Petition to the King,” 1841, Kierkegaard, Letters and Documents, 23-25

Th. “1834-1836: the First Journal Entries,” Søren Kierkegaard: Papers and Journals: A Selection, 21-32.


Week 2 (January 24 & January 27): Existentialism & Phenomenology

T. Marino, Gordon, “Introduction,” Basic Writings of Existentialism, ix-xvi.

T. Crowell, Steven, “Existentialism,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

Th. Moran, Dermot, “Introduction,” Introduction to Phenomenology, 1-22 (Canvas)

Th. Smith, David Woodruff, “Phenomenology,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Week 3 (January 31 & February 2): Kierkegaard

T. Søren Kierkegaard: Life and Work, Royal Danish Ministry, 1-16 (Canvas)

T. “Introduction to the English Language Edition,” Søren Kierkegaard and the Common Man, xi-xviii (Canvas)

T. Hannay, A., “From Street to Salon: First Blood,” Kierkegaard: A Biography, 1-29.

Th. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, with Continual Reference to Socrates (The Essential Kierkegaard), 20-36.

Th. Soderquist, Brian K. “Introduction: What is ‘Irony” in On the Concept of Irony?” Truth and Untruth in Søren Kierkegaard’s On The Concept of Irony, 1-29 (Canvas)

Th. Film: “Ordinary People” (2009)


Week 4 (February 7 & February 9): Kierkegaard and Hegel

T. Stewart, Jon, “Kierkegaard’s Hegelian Philosophy of History: The Concept of Irony,” A History of Hegelianism in Golden Age Denmark, Tome II, 564-572 (Canvas).

T. Kierkegaard, “Preface,” “Diapsalmata,” The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical Erotic” (Either-Or)

Th. Kierkegaard, “Ancient Tragedy’s Reflection in the Modern,” “Shadowgraphs,” “The Unhappiest One,” “Crop Rotation,” (Either-Or)


Week 5 (February 14 & February 16): Kierkegaard and Kant

T. Kierkegaard, “The Seducer’s Diary,” (Either-Or)

T. Zizek, The Parallax View, 72-80 (Canvas)

Th. “The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage,” “Equilibrium between the Aesthetic and the Ethical in the Development of Personality” (Either-Or)

Film: “The Graduate” (1967)


Week 6 (February 21 & February 23): Kierkegaard and

T. Updike, John, “The Astronomer, The New Yorker, April 1 1961. (Canvas)

T. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, (The Essential Kierkegaard), 93-101.

T. Kierkegaard, Repetition, (The Essential Kierkegaard), 102-115.

Th. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety

Week 7 (February 28 & March 2): Nietzsche

T. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety

T. Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death ((The Essential Kierkegaard), 350-372.

Th. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, First Essay, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 111-144.


Week 8 (March 7 & March 9): Nietzsche, Heidegger

T. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Second Essay, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 145-192.

Th. Film: “Irrational Man” (2015)


Week 9 (March 14 & March 16) Heidegger

T. Heidegger, Being and Time (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 299 -336.

Th. Heidegger, Being and Time


Week 10 (March 21 & March 23) Sartre

T. Sartre, Existentialism, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 341-367.

Th. Sartre, Existentialism is A Humanism


Week 11 (Spring Recess, March 28 & March 30)


Week 12 (April 4 & April 6) Sartre, De Beauvoir

T. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 369-409.

Th. De Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 413-436.

Week 13 (April 11 & April 13) Sartre, Camus

T. Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 441-488.

Th. Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 489-492.


Week 14 (April 18 & April 20) Sartre, Camus, Dostoevsky

T. Dostoevsky, Notes From the Underground, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 193-230.

Th. Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 231-254.


Week 15 (April 25 & April 27) de Unamuno, Ellison, Derrida

T. de Unamuno, Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 257-294.

T. Ellison, Invisible Man (Basic Writings of Existentialism), 495-505.


Week 16 (May 2 & May 4) Existentialism & Phenomenology

T. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (The Essential Kierkegaard) 277-311

T. Kierkegaard, The Lily in the Field and the Bird of the Air (The Essential Kierkegaard) 333-338.

Week 17 (May 9 & May 11) Existentialism & Phenomenology, Presentations