Expanded description: Required Texts are: Gordon Marino, Basic Writings of Existentialism (ISBN: 9780375759895), available in soft cover through bookfinder.com as little as $14.36 new and $3.92 used; Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (soft cover available at bookfinder.com for as little as $8.90 new and $3.92 used); Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (soft cover available at bookfinder.com for as little as $8.51 new and $6.00 used); and Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (soft cover available at bookfinder.com for as little as $3.50 new or used).

Week 1: Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism” (in Marino text)—an essay which more than any other addresses the question “what exactly do the motley crew of writers on the existentialist roster have in common?”

Week 2: We will take up Camus’s contribution to Existentialism, even though he vehemently denied being one. This will involve a study of his first big hit “The Stranger” and parts of his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (both in Marino text). Among other topics, these writings highlight the concept of the absurd and an analysis and evaluation of the act suicide.

WEEKS 3 and 4 Part I of Kierkegaard’s “The Sickness Unto Death” (in Marino text). In examining this text we will ponder the difference between despair and depression, the meaning of anxiety, ethical evasions, and some other light fare.

Week 5: In our reading of Part I of Nietzsche’s “The Genealogy of Morals” (in Marino text)we will be riveted to Nietzsche’s deconstruction of the concept of conscience.

Week 6: This class will be divided into two parts. In the first hour we will discuss chapter I of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (in Marino text). In the second hour, it will be Jamaica Kinkaid’s small book, A Small Place.

Week 7: This class will put the skull on the desk in the form of a meditation on death. We will read Kierkegaard’s discourse “At a Graveside” (handout or emailed pdf) and Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Ilyich.”

Week 8: In our final session we will see what the trickster Kurt Vonnegut has to say about the meaning of life in his profound but playful Slaughterhouse Five.