An Update: Thesis

Again, I apologize for my lack of posting. I’ll try to maintain one per week until my schedule dies down–perhaps posting a quote or video now and then as well. For now, here’s an update.

Last week, I applied for a Fullbright in France, a dream I’ve had since my high school trip to France. Unfortunately, I had forgotten it, but last year, a Fullbright scholar named Ahmed came to teach French at my school. I met him at tryouts for a play and the two of us became friends. He rekindled that dream and my love for French culture and language.

He’s back in France now, but we write sometimes, and little by little, I’m putting aside money for a possible voyage to Provence. Unfortunately food and bills often take precedent.

Now, I must focus on my thesis: the challenges of absurdity and judgment in the fiction of Albert Camus. By tomorrow, I hope to have a 30-page draft for my adviser. From there, let the edits begin.

 

To that end, I’m going on a retreat to Mt. Irenaeus, a Franciscan retreat center partly owned by the school, schlepping my books and journal articles along. I need the space and solitude to write, although the irony of writing a thesis about one of Europe’s most outspoken atheists at a Franciscan retreat house has me laughing.

The more I dig into the paper, the more interesting it becomes. On page 15, I’m halfway, but the “ice berg” concept of nonfiction certainly holds true: my paper–even at 30 pages–will only be the tip of a very deep ice berg. I’m still struggling to state my thesis statement concisely.

I’s something like the following: the fiction of Albert Camus raises many important challenges facing modern humans in a godless world alienated by industry and political violence; it also attempts to answer those questions. However, any attempt to draw a system or coherence from his writing, beyond a few simple motifs, will leave one frustrated and unsatisfied. Instead, one should see his fiction as an attempt to wrestle with the human condition.

I’m using four main works of fiction to make my point: Caligula, The Stranger, The Plague, and The Fall.

Caligula shows the basic problem that Camus faces his whole life: how to justify humanity’s wretched condition and condemn crimes against it. In the play, Caligula, a crazed emperor, essentially becomes fate and the gods in order to revolt his own powerlessness against those entities. He becomes a tyrant in the process.

The Plague answers this , by showing how one must draw solidarity from this condition, unifying as people with a common desire for dignity to combat our our limitations and suffering together in solidarity.

The Stranger shows the danger of judgement: society condemns those who do not follow transcendent values, in effect becoming the gods that once “created” and upheld those values, even passing sentences of life and death.

The Fall answers that by showing how we are all condemned in certain ways to endure our existence, and judging others is merely a way to deflect judgment from ourselves and have power over them. Instead, we should see the unity of our condition, and as The Plague also notes, join together and respect that unity.

The spirit of these issues and ethics is clear and complete, but as Camus’ philosophical writing shows, one cannot draw a system from them. I think it’s better to cling to his fiction, using it to draw our own conclusion.

Things are still fuzzy, but I’m hoping to sort them out by next Monday when I must turn in a rough draft.

Feel free to post any questions or comments below. I’m curious to see people’s thoughts.

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