Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2012 Lauren Ballard
This essay examines The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Rebel (1951). I have chosen these three works in an effort to triangulate Camus' intellectual development, his persistent interest in literature, and the historical background against which these take place. Sisyphus and The Rebel are Camus' two major philosophical essays. The former belongs to Camus' "First Cycle" of writing, in which he focused on the concept of "the Absurd"; the latter belongs to Camus' "Second Cycle", in which he focused on the theme of "revolt." Camus wrote The Myth of Sisyphus during the Nazi occupation of Paris, an event which he witnessed and experienced and which also served as the inspiration for his novel The Plague. Though the two books are connected by this event, thematically The Plague belongs to Camus' Second Cycle. For this reason, it serves as an illuminating work, demonstrating the importance of fiction to Camus' intellectual process and his particular way of thinking. From Sisyphus to The Rebel, Camus' argument for fiction comes down to the opportunity it offers to describe life rather than explain it. In his opinion, the best novelists exhibit the very philosophy that should generally govern human behavior. These novelists limit themselves to what they can be sure of – namely, their personal experiences; they patiently explore what it is like to live on this earth – how human beings deal with each other, manage their environments, and cope with the often tremendous complexities of life. Not co-incidentally, Camus' fiction took special interest in death of all kinds – from murder to sickness to suicide – in order to remind his readers that life is finite. According to Camus, writing fiction is a way to keep the reader conscious of the human condition, because good fiction plainly exhibits life as it is and death as our common fate. By reflecting on good literature, readers may form their own life ethic.
Ballard, Lauren, "Albert Camus: A Conscientious Witness" (2012). CMC Senior Theses. 458.
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