Existentialism is a literary phenomenon Show more Show less
Existentialist themes have been explored and promoted in fictional works, such as novels and plays, by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Existentialism as a literature movement manifests in such works.
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Existentialist literature is a recognised genre
Fictional and scholarly works, in the form of plays, novels and essays, explored existential themes concerning human existence, life and identity. Existentialism as a literary phenomenon has been recognised within the academic sphere and by awarding institutions such as the Nobel Prize.
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Existentialism began as a philosophical movement, however, later morphed into a prominent literary movement that lasted from around 1850s to 1950s. It gained traction culturally during the World Wars. Literary expression dealt with existential themes such as freedom, the absurd, and nothingness. Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote both existential philosophical theory and fiction. His 1938 novel ‘Nausea’ follows the life of an academic coming to terms with his individuality.  Sartre won, and also declined, a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964 for ‘Nausea’.  The Nobel Prize in literature is awarded to ‘outstanding work’, which not only suggests that existentialist literature is a recognised genre but one that can be of high quality. Theatre critic and scholar Martin Esslin identified existentialist themes in the work of contemporary playwrights such as Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. These writers often explored the existentialist theme of the absurd and the lack of meaning in life.  Given that there are fictional and scholarly works that explore existentialism as a literary phenomenon, we have good reason to believe it is one. That said, some of these works are well-esteemed and highly regarded within the literary discipline, which further support the idea of existentialism as literature.