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Existentialism and writing: A multi-critical approach to John Fowles
My purpose in this study is to analyze Fowles' existential philosophy and its correlation with his writing technique.^ Although Fowles places himself within the existentialist tradition--French existentialism, in particular--he also claims differences with it. Fowles' main particularity is that he tackles the major existentialist issue of freedom in a negative, but multi-focal, way by dealing at length with the deterministic forces which negate freedom: metaphysical, socio-political and psychological factors.^ Indeed, Fowles' fiction is to a large extent a negative reflection on French existentialism. A comparative study of Fowles, Sartre and Camus will clearly bring out the divergences, as well as the similarities, between their philosophies. Comparing Fowles to the French existentialists, one realizes how much more fluid and multi-faceted his philosophy is.^ However, if Fowles' eclecticism makes his existentialism richer than Sartre's and Camus', it also makes it quite dubious from an ideological point of view. It will be therefore interesting to deconstruct Fowles' progressive political claims from the points of view of race, gender and class before focusing on what Fowles sees as the only real possibility of freedom: the individual's power to transcend the conditioning forces at work in existence and create a personal and flexible mythology by which to live.^ Finally, a most fascinating aspect of Fowles' thought and fiction to examine is his transposing the philosophical problem of determinism versus freedom onto the literary field. Reflecting on art, Fowles realizes that his position as the inheritor of the realist literary tradition puts him at odds with his own existentialist precept according to which life is a fiction to be written by the individuals themselves. The realist narrative technique remains the only valid one in Fowles' eyes; but because it deprives the characters from the existential freedom and responsibility of becoming their own creators, Fowles feels increasingly forced into post-modernist experimentation.^ Fowles' attempts to solve this literary dilemma reflects, in fact, his conception of authentic living as being a perpetual quest for a middle truth which lies between extremes. With Fowles, living and writing begin and end in paradox. ^
Education, Language and Literature|Philosophy|Literature, English
"Existentialism and writing: A multi-critical approach to John Fowles"
(January 1, 1992).
Electronic Doctoral Dissertations for UMass Amherst.