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Understanding purpose in works of existential fiction

Agadis, Michael (2024) Understanding purpose in works of existential fiction. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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There are many works of fiction that explore the idea of existentialism. A problem arises however when categorizing these works into a particular tradition of responses to the existential question. This paper’s focus was to draw out each author’s response to the matter by highlighting a clear throughline in their offering of some system of moral value. The four works discussed throughout the paper are Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground (1864), David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996), Franz Kafka’s The Trial (1925), and Albert Camus’ The Plague (1947). Given the association of many of the authors with postmodernism and absurdism, these authors also grapple deeply with the potential answer that is nihilism. Throughout this paper, it is argued that attaching a pro-nihilist bent to any of these authors goes directly against the moral outlook they ultimately offer. Whether the response is a Theist, Deist, or secular humanist approach, all of these novels evaluate and dispense with the nihilist tradition and instead offer to their reader some other avenue for moral activity.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Agadis, Michaelmta26@pitt.edumta26
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTheunissen,
Committee ChairGlazener,
Committee ChairBarnhisel,
Thesis AdvisorGayle,
Date: 24 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 20 March 2024
Approval Date: 24 April 2024
Submission Date: 18 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 51
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Politics and Philosophy
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nihilism, meaning, purpose, existentialism, existential fiction, absurdism, post-modernism
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2024 14:44
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2024 14:44


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