The French Lieutenant's Woman Historical Context

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Existentialism is a school of philosophical and artistic attitudes that investigates the nature of being. Its basic tenet is that existence and experience rather than essence should be emphasized. The beginnings of existentialism can be traced to the nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Sören Kierkegaard and early twentieth-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

After World War II, existentialism reflected on an absurd world devoid of a benevolent creator/protector, where humans must create meaning through their actions and take sole responsibility for their fates. This freedom and responsibility can, however, cause an overwhelming sense of dread. Existentialism has been expressed as a dominant theme in the literary works of Franz Kafka, Dostoevsky, Camus, John Paul Sartre, and Samuel Beckett.

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The French Lieutenant's Woman from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.