Freedom and Egoism in The Ethics of Ambiguity

Essay completed 2 November 2016

At this point in our class, any reconciliation between morality and existentialism seems impossible to me. If everything is subjective, how can anyone establish ethical imperatives? Why would anyone feel any obligation to others if individuals are free to determine how they live? In her 1947 work The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir confronts these questions as she considers how to approach some form of ethical process even in the midst of existentialism’s rejection of inherent moralities. Continue reading “Freedom and Egoism in The Ethics of Ambiguity”

A Story that Doesn’t Exist: Nausea and Transcending Retrospective Interpretation

Essay completed 24 October 2016

Growing up in a Calvinist church and a conservative evangelical school, I was taught that everything in the world has inherent meaning. Those institutions maintained that every aspect of the natural world correlates to an absolute spiritual truth. I was told that the knowledge God has revealed to humankind is all that I would ever need to know. Nature exists as it does to exemplify God’s greatness. I have selfish impulses because I inherited Adam and Eve’s sin nature. Humankind’s fallen nature explains every act of immorality ever committed. This manner of interpreting the world through cause-and-effect allegories was comforting to me because it gave me a definite identity. I knew who I was and why I was here. For most of my life I believed that my worldview determined my identity and the nature of the world around me. Continue reading “A Story that Doesn’t Exist: Nausea and Transcending Retrospective Interpretation”

“At Night He Imagined Unspeakable Things”: Grotesques and Misinterpretations in “Hands”

Essay completed 22 November 2016

Sherwood Anderson shifts the grotesque from the realm of the supernatural to the world of everyday human life in his 1919 short story cycle Winesburg, Ohio. Characters in the work encounter the grotesque through attempts to conform to ideas and societal pressures. Anderson portrays the grotesque as a human creation, born of the conflict between ideas and failures to communicate. In his book A New Book of the Grotesques: Contemporary Approaches to Anderson’s Early Fiction, Robert Dunne analyzes this relationship between the grotesque and failures to communicate in Winesburg, Ohio, arguing that Anderson expresses “language is an indeterminate source of meaning and is in fact a contributing factor in how individuals become grotesque” (Dunne 11). Continue reading ““At Night He Imagined Unspeakable Things”: Grotesques and Misinterpretations in “Hands””

Heaven’s Gaze: Interpretive Vision and Medusa in Dante’s Inferno

Essay completed 26 April 2016

In canto IX lines 34-60 of Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, travelers Virgil and Dante come across a tower at the Gate of Dis. Three Furies of classical Greek mythology emerge and call for the gorgon Medusa to petrify the men. Virgil commands Dante to turn and cover his eyes until the threat has passed. Dante the author then breaks from the narrative to invite the reader to “weigh with good understanding” the meaning behind this allegorical episode (Dante 9.58-60). The Medusa episode represents the obstacle that the physical world poses to Dante’s allegory of a quest for understanding. Continue reading “Heaven’s Gaze: Interpretive Vision and Medusa in Dante’s Inferno”