Aesthetics, theory and critique of literary existentialism

Keywords: existentialism, aesthetics, theory, critique, personality, society, literature, essay.


The article deals with the problem of aesthetics, theory and critique of literary existentialism. Attention is drawn to the fact that modern existentialism adopted the Nietzschean concept of the nature of artistic creativity, which is based on the thesis of two main principles of human spiritual activity and its attitude to life: “Dionysian” and “Apollonian”. The first is the spontaneous beginning, the emotional element, the primary instincts, as unconscious, which was expressed in myth creation. For F. Nietzsche it was the only way to reveal the meaning and joy of human existence. Apollo’s origin is a conscious perception of life, which subordinates everything in art to the “free” will of man. F. Nietzsche favored the divine-artistic, aristocratic Apollonian art.

The third source of modern existentialism is the phenomenology of E. Husserl, his doctrine of “pure consciousness” and “pure essence”.

The aesthetic concepts of existentialism were based on such axioms as the recognition of the true individual existence of a person, such as the need for an individual’s orientation towards the inner self, the space of subjective desires, as an opportunity to cognize the “existential” only through intuition.

French philosopher and writer Jean Paul Sartre expressed the understanding of the individual of his contemporary society as an alienated entity, submitting alienation as a general position. Personality is eliminated from history, is subordinated to collective forms of life, economic elements, the state, and forced standards. Literary activity seemed to Sartorius as one of the few forms of expression of human activity, the most limited way of combining personality and society.

J.-P. Sartre believes that the work of art, its aesthetic qualities arise when the artist treats the irreal. In the works of art there is no direct, direct reflection of reality. The connection of art to reality, in its presentation, occurs through the “ensemble of irreal objects”, real is only an aesthetic pleasure.

The main idea of the aesthetics of existentialism in the work of A. Camus is to affirm the absurdity of human existence, its loss in the world of incomprehensibility of the ultimate meaning of being. Curious thought of the person, being convinced of the impossibility to penetrate the mysteries of the surrounding world, is content with the image of his chaotic variety. And here the art belongs to the decisive role. A. Camus understands works of art as an expression of renunciation of thought from self-deception.


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2. Pisateli Francii o literature. Moskva: Progress, 1978. 470 s. [in Russian].

3. Camus A. Essais. Paris: Gallimard. Bibliotheque de la Pleade, 1965.

4. Sartre J.-P. Situations. II. Paris: Gallimard, 1948.

Author Biography

Leonid Kozubenko, Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi Hryhorii Skovoroda State Pedagogical University

Ph. D. in Pedagogy
Associate Professor

How to Cite
Kozubenko, L. (2019). Aesthetics, theory and critique of literary existentialism. Theoretical and Didactic Philology, (30), 13-18. Retrieved from