I’m doing research for a project on existentialist authors and poets, and am hoping that my fellow dopers can recommend some good existentialist poets and authors that I can use for the project. Thank you in advance!
The big three names you usually hear in connection with European existentialism are Sartre, Camus, and Beckett.
I don’t know of any famous American existentialist authors off the top of my head–Vonnegut might qualify.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered the father of Existentialism, though I believe during his time he considered himself a Transcendentalist. He authored mostly prose as well as poetry.
Henry David Thoreau (a student of Emerson’s, of course) was also a gifted writer. Here’s a link to some of his stuff:
Kierkegaard is another big name.
I’ve seen Maslow mentioned as an American existentialist, but I don’t think he ever did fiction.
Would Auden be considered existentialist? He keeps popping up in my mind when I think of existentialism.
Another non-poet would be Simone de Bouvoir (I know I’m misspelling that) who, if memory serves, was Sartre’s lover. I don’t really know anything other than that, though.
Phillip K. Dick. The two main themes in his stories are ‘What is real?’ and ‘What is human?’. Seems pretty existential to me. He was mostly a fiction (scientific) writer so I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for.
I’ll add Kenzaburo Oe to the list. A student of French existentialism, his A Personal Matter was recognized as a fine book in that tradition.
Novelist Andre Gide (The Immoralist)
Playwright Tom Stoppard (Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead)
Camus can do, but Sartre is smartre.
I have nothing to add to this thread.
Alright, just so I don’t feel like a total jackass, Friedrich Nietzsche is sometimes (controversially) considered an existentialist, though he certainly represents the “dark side” of existentialism.
…and Nietzsche is pietzsche!
I honestly don’t like to classify American transcendentalists as existentialist any more than as Gothic. For lack of recent exposure, I can’t provide specific lines or quotes, but the spirit that remains in my memory lacks the downcast overtones of Europeans existentialism. At least that is how it seems, perhaps due to the context modern (European) existentialism and its stark contrast against the ordered, mechanical, and all-consuming aura city life. In fact, one of the better existentialist works of fiction, The Plague, effectively describes the breakdown of this comforting edifice and human reactions to the resulting existential limbo. Furthermore, may I suggest that any possible alienation of classic American writers did not have nature as its object, like it did civilization? Nature remained a benevolent force for them, while the (European) existentialists certainly found nothing noble in savagery or primitive spirituality.
My thoughts on existentialism: