Great Books 102: Renaissance to Modern

Resignation and Hope in Albert Camus' The Fall

Overview

In Albert Camus’ The Fall, the 20thcentury French writer explores the idea of responsibility and the human condition. Camus opposes the nihilism prevalent among existentialist contemporaries, such as Jean Paul Sartre, by attempting to maintain a radical freedom that resides in a responsibility to others. Camus vividly illustrates this concept in The Fall when the main character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, rejects an urgent call to fulfill this responsibility to others and presents the reader with his rationalization for doing so. 

Lecture

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Recommended Readings

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Camus oppose the nihilism of the 20th century?
  2. Why does Jean-Baptiste fail to respond to the tragedy that unfolds near him?
  3. How is Camus’ radical freedom a burden? Is it an impossible freedom?

Q & A Session

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Justin A. Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at Hillsdale College, where he has taught since 2004, and where he currently serves as the Academic Advisor to the Hillsdale College Writing Center. He received both his B.A. and M.A. from California State University, Fresno, and his Ph.D. from Purdue University.