Title page for ETD etd-05162010-011132

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Viljoen, Johan Wilhelm
Email jviljoen@nrf.ac.za
URN etd-05162010-011132
Document Title Les dieux cachés de l’existentialisme : la soumission et la révolte dans l’œuvre de Jean-Paul Sartre et d’Albert Camus (French)
Degree DLitt
Department Modern European Languages
Advisor Name Title
Prof L Peeters Supervisor
  • Albert Camus
  • French writers and philosophers
  • Western religious tradition
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
Date 2010-04-22
Availability unrestricted
The basic question underlying this thesis concerns the identification of the fundamental elements constituting the Western religious tradition and the way in which these elements manifest themselves in the writings of French writers and philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, authors chosen as the subject of this work not only because of their historical and biographical resemblance to one another but also because both are inscribed within the same existentialist and pseudo-existentialist literary tradition emerging in post-war Europe during the nineteen-forties. In the case of both Sartre and Camus, this tradition is particularly characterised by a literature seeking to affirm itself as resolutely atheist on the one hand yet infused with an unshakeable moral imperative on the other, obliging not only an active engagement by their readers in the cause of those less fortunate, but also a continuous effort by the two authors themselves to justify this imperative in the face of their maintained conviction that the universe has neither creator, nor existential reason, nor inherent meaning. It is precisely the contradiction between these two characteristics, and particularly the fact that the first cannot be logically derived from the second, which leads me to propose that the atheism affected by both writers might not be as absolute, as natural or as real as it seems, and that, despite their efforts throughout their work to show to what extent they reject the notion of divine existence, the moral imperative both support with such fervour is actually derived from a lingering religious faith so psychologically primal that neither of them ever manages to rid himself of it entirely. Of course this faith is not based on any true intellectual conviction, but rather the result of two distinct factors: firstly, the adherence of both authors to a cultural and intellectual tradition wholly constructed on religious thought, thus forcing their art to reflect this thought and its constituent elements despite their own conscious objectives and desires, and secondly the irresistible influence of such personal and particularly psychological factors as prohibits either from partaking of an authentic atheist conviction. However, as both continue throughout their lives to deny the existence of this faith whose influence neither is capable of escaping, I also propose that this influence on their writing is necessarily opaque, and the god itself on which it is based, a hidden god.

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Please cite as follows:

Viljoen, JW 2009, Les dieux cachés de l’existentialisme : la soumission et la révolte dans l’œuvre de Jean-Paul Sartre et d’Albert Camus, DLitt thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05162010-011132/ >


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