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Transcript
The Twentieth Century
HUM 2052: Civilization II
Spring 2012
Dr. Perdigao
April 6-11, 2012
Framing
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German army invades Belgium (August 4, 1914)
World War I (1914-1918); Treaty of Versailles (1919)
Bolshevik Revolution (1917); Industrialization in Soviet Union (1928);
Collectivization of agriculture (1929)
Mussolini, power over Italy (1922)
US declares war on Germany (1917); Great Depression (1929)
Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany (1933)
Stalin’s purges in Soviet Union (1936-1938)
Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (1939)
World War II (1939-1945)
German troops invade Poland, begins World War II (1939)
Germany invades Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France (1940)
Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, US enters war against Japan and Germany (1941)
US drops atomic bombs on Japan; Japan surrenders (1945)
Cleaving
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“‘Freedom’ and ‘responsibility’ are large and abstract ideas: they are part of an
ambitious rethinking of human existence, and of the relationship of individual and
society, that characterizes mid-century thought. In their breadth, they interrogate
fundamental assumptions about human nature and lay claim to universal
significance.” (2096)
Shift in conceptualization of the individual in the larger world against the backdrop
of the horrors of World War II
“The existential condition, according to Sartre, is the condition of all humanity, the
‘essential plurality’ of human beings; their inescapable connectedness, is a given for
Hannah Arendt; and the power of language to crystallize and to shape thought
described by George Orwell, exists wherever speech is found” (2096).
Newspeak
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George Orwell (1903-1950)
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Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949); Animal Farm (1945) {“All Animals Are Equal,
But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others”( 2096)}
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Hatred of Communist and Fascist totalitarianism—stemming from time in Spain
fighting Fascists during the Spanish Civil War, betrayal by Communist forces;
writings reflect a critique of British imperialism (and call to withdraw from India),
Soviet Communism, capitalism (2097)
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Despised “the misuse of language to obscure the truth and rewrite history for
political gain” (2097)
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Context for work: P.E.N. Club speeches and refusal to address political liberty
despite the fact of it celebrating the tercentenary of Milton’s Areopagitica (1644),
defense of freedom of the press (2097)
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Dated November 12, 1945, published in January 1946
Age of Fractures?
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“One can accept, and most enlightened people would accept, the Communist thesis
that pure freedom will only exist in a classless society, and that one is most nearly
free when one is working to bring about such a society. . . Freedom of the intellect
means the freedom to report what one has seen, heard, and felt, and not to be
obliged to fabricate imaginary facts and feelings. The familiar tirades against
‘escapism’, ‘individualism’, ‘romanticism’ and so forth, are merely a forensic device,
the aim of which is to make the perversion of history seem respectable.” (Orwell
2099)
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“Totalitarianism, however, does not so much promise an age of faith as an age of
schizophrenia. A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes
flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds
in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it
persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can
never permit either the truthful recording of facts, or the emotional sincerity, that
literary creation demands.” (2101)
Toward the Existential
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Existentialism—Perry, Chapter 31 (804-805)
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Response to anxiety and uncertainty during time of world wars, popularity after
World War II (Perry 804)
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Some as atheists, some believed in God but not Christianity, some were Christians,
Jewish
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Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Albert Camus, and
Simone de Beauvoir, involved in resistance to Nazi occupation during World War
II (Perry 807)—choice for French citizen to be a patriot or a traitor during German
occupation (Perry 807)
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Declined Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964 and French Legion of Honor in 1945
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Evil as “central and permanent fact of human existence” (Perry 807)
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Facing capture and death, recognition of solitude in a hostile universe; rediscovered
human freedom (Perry 807)
Being and Becoming
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Sartre as atheist; atheistic existentialism, rooted in individual rather than God, preestablished ethic, “uniform conception of human nature” (Perry 807)
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“In Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, the French thinker
proposed a theory of human existence that found eager adherents in a postwar
society tired of authoritarian structures and ready to experience the pleasures of
freedom” (2102).
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Novel Nausea (1938), play No Exit (1944)
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Breaks with Camus as a result of his support of totalitarian regimes, support of
social revolution
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“. . . he explored the relationship between absolute freedom for the individual and a
moral responsibility for collective action” (2103).
Individual versus the collective—from Dostoevsky to Marx and Engels. How the
self is located in the world. Responsibility for individual choice, freedom to choose
independent of regulating structures. We must choose our own ethics and create
ourselves through our actions (Perry 807).
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“I’m free in all the ways that you’re not”
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“We are not objectified instruments, determined and shaped by material forces, as
Marxism teaches. Nor do unconscious drives determine our actions, as Freud
contended. For Sartre, we are not helpless prisoners of our genes, of the
environment, of historical forces, or of culture. Rather, we alone are responsible for
who we are and for the feelings that torment, trap, and immobilize us. Even
though the conditions in which we find ourselves impinge on our existence, it is up
to us to decide what to do about them” (Perry 807).
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“Existence precedes essence is a famous statement of that paradigm: our actions are
constantly determining the person we will have been at the end. There is no preexisting essential identity. . . Instead, the existential self is always in process.”
(2103).
Continuation of Pirandello’s scheme in the sense of the freeplay of identity and
meaning. “There exist no higher realm of Being and no immutable truths that
serve as ultimate standards of virtue. It is unauthentic to submit passively to
established values, which one did not participate in making. The individual has
nothing to cling to; he or she is thrown into the world ‘with no support and no aid’”
(Perry 807).
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Potential identity as existential self comes into being through a series of conscious
choices, only “essential” or fixed at moment of death
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“. .. each person is an absolute choice of self from the standpoint of a world of
knowledges and of techniques which this choice both assumes and illumines; each
person is an absolute upsurge at an absolute date and is perfectly unthinkable at
another date.” (2105)
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Rather than abstract philosophy, true philosophy “makes commitments and incurs
risks” (Perry 807).
Die Welle?
• http://www.thewave.tk/
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVRXXbU-z7U
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFq6xIaAFtc&feature=related
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwur20pbygk&feature=related
Applications of Theory
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“Any belief in civilization, in common humanity, or in divine Providence is sorely
tested: Borowski’s bleak picture questions everything and does not pretend to offer
encouragement” (2304).
Here is what Arendt raises at the end of her essay, the notion of a “burden of guilt”
that all carry, even though this protagonist attempts to suppress it with his
“impersonal attitude” (2304).
The attempt to “suspend, for the moment, one’s humanity” in the midst of a
landscape underwritten with the “hollowness of their civilized image” (2306).
Ultimately, the story paints a picture of “spiritual desolation that not only
illustrates a shameful moment in modern history but raises questions about what it
means to be civilized, or even ‘human.’” (2307)
This is the tearing of the veil— “the horror” Marlow conceals. It is the culmination
of what Montaigne argued about civilized and savage. Here the masking in
language of “Ladies and Gentlemen” juxtaposed with horrors of the experience.
Contexts
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Tadeusz Borowski (1922-1951)
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Borowski arrested, sent to Auschwitz with Maria Rundo in 1943
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1946 collection We Were Auschwitz, “literature of atrocity”
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Own job in camp as orderly in hospital, “burden of guilt,” connection to Arendt
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Letters to Maria—published in Auschwitz, Our Home
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“world of antiheroes, those who survive by accommodating themselves to things as
they are and avoiding acts of heroism” (2305) {Edgar Derby?}
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The World of Stone (1948 collection)—life in postwar Germany, disgust at the “false
normalcy of postwar society” (2305)
Paradoxalist?
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Emphasis on his writing, how he will “grasp the true significance of the events,
things, and people” he has seen; “For I intend to write” (2305).
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Courted by Poland’s Stalinist government, wrote stories, intelligence work in
Berlin for Polish Secret police; but with revelation of Soviet prison camps, became
disillusioned, felt “complicit with the oppressors”
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Committed suicide by gas July 1, 1951
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Theodor Adorno’s famous comment that “To write poetry after Auschwitz is
barbaric” in 1949
Framing the Text
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Birkenau (second and largest of three concentration camps at Auschwitz) (2306)
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“systematic dehumanization” and “common vulnerability” leads to “alienation and
rage at their fellow victims rather than at their executioners” (2306)
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“gentlemen”
Red Cross ambulance
“the only permissible form of pity” in deceit (2313)
“Canada”
“Religion is the opium of the people” (2309)
Darwin (2315)
“throw out circles of light into the impenetrable darkness” (2319)
Esperanto (2311)
“unnatural mothers” (2317)
“are we good people?” (2315)
131-132 (2314)
“It was a good, rich transport” (2320)