Professor Barbie (ladyoracle) wrote in albert_camus,
Professor Barbie

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I left on an airplane my notebook with the class notes and source notes I've taken for my final project in a graduate course called Existentialism in Fiction and Film. It is due this Wednesday,, Nov. 30, so in just 3 days, I have to finish it to the point of making a 15-min presentation about it. Camus's ideas are the focal point of this project's values.

This is a bit of the draft of my existentialism project. It is a creative one, because my prof. actually allows us to do those, though my original plan was to make more of a formal paper. If you have time, please read it and let me know what you think. There are two chracters--a guy and a girl--who always alternate back and forth in dialogue. I haven't written many (at all) visual cues such as movements or images because I am trying to decide if this should be a play or a short story.

I am structuring it around four questions:

"Can you both be art and create art?”

“What does it mean to live authentically?”

“Half-full, half-empty. Where’s the glass?”

“Why is it that we don’t have the right to disappear?”

“Why is it that we don’t have the right to disappear?”

“I have a 3-hour layover in Atlanta.”

“I could have driven you to Atlanta instead of the Nashville airport.”

“Let’s go, then.”


“No, I was just kidding.”

“That’s the problem. Everyone is just kidding when I am serious. Let me drive you back to Lafayette. Don’t catch a plane at all.”


“The only thing I believe in is driving. I believe in driving like most people believe in God.”

“That’s very American.”

“That’s my problem. I’m too American. My role models are Neal Cassidy and James Dean.”

“What about James Joyce?”

“I admire his writing, but he’s not my role model.”

“Don’t you realize that for two years after we broke up, I felt like your Nora? Joyce loved her better from afar.”

“Ulysses is my favorite book, and it’s true I’m an alcoholic, but I‘m not Joyce.”

“Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with identifying as a Beat.”

“I had planned on dying when I was 27, but now I’m 28 and still here.”

“I plan on dying when I’m 33.”

“Then you still have time.”

“So do you. I always felt like I died the summer before we met. I’d been starving myself, and I lay on my couch unconscious for 18 hours. When I was first laying there thinking about whether or not to get up, I realized this might be the end, and I didn’t care. Then when I woke up, I was angry to be again faced with the choice to eat or not to eat. I ate something, though, and since then I’ve been a living dead girl. I already outlived myself.”

“I’m glad you’re still here.”

“That means I was dead when I met you.”

“No, you weren’t. You were stunningly alive.”

“You don’t understand. I think life is overrated.”

“So you privilege death?”

“No. It’s like Socrates’s Apologia. If you don’t fear and dread death, then in a way, no one can have power over you.”

“So you value life.”

“Only in the sense that this life is what we know we have. Maybe I’ll die and return as a flea or become an angel or burn in a lake of fire forever, but what I know is the present.”

“So, let’s take off to Mexico.”

“I’ve got two credit cards with 5K limits that have zero balances that I keep just in case of such a situation, but the thing is that no matter where we go, we take ourselves with us. And we leave a paper trail.”

“Only if someone looks for us.”

“Someone would look for me. Family, boyfriend, friends. It pisses me off that these people can file missing person reports on us and make the government hunt us down. Sure, it might be nice if I was actually kidnapped, but otherwise, if I don’t owe you money, it’s none of your business where I am.”

“That’s the problem with social security numbers and fingerprinting, green cards and VISAs and driver’s licenses. We exist on paper.”

“Why is it we don’t have the right to disappear? Camus said that the greatest problem of the 20th century was suicide. If God is dead, then why not kill ourselves?”

“Why not?”

“He says because doing so would be giving in to the absurd, rather than fighting against its inevitability, which is the plight of humankind. But, that’s assuming that we have free will to do with our lives as we choose.”


“And I feel unable to choose to disappear except by actually dying. I like the idea of driving into the sunset, but barring a traffic accident, the sun will set, and we will continue going somewhere and eating and crapping.”

“Can you both be art and create art?”

“I’ve got three seminar papers due in a week and a half and haven’t started any them.” He said. His fingers flick ashes from his fourth cigarette into the tray between us.

“Do you have any ideas?”

“I had an idea for a paper about Blake for my Romanticism class during the second week of the semester, but didn’t write it down and forgot it.”

“Why didn’t you write it down?”

“I used to have empty notebooks everywhere, and I’d pick one up and write in it when I had an idea, but now I scramble to find a scrap of paper when I have an idea, but I haven’t written anything real in five years.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I feel like all I can make is myself. Can you both be art and make art?”

“Umm…Andy Warhol?”

“I said MAKE art.”

“Well, anyway, what is the criteria for your paper?”

“It has to be any of the big six: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.”

“Your professor sucks. I can‘t believe you‘re doing only the canonical guys. I wrote a paper about how Coleridge shared “Kubla Khan” with Mary Darby Robinson in 1796, and she wrote a response poem to it, which was published in 1798, shortly before she died and how the two poems together can be read as an argument between the poetics of Romanticism and then-popular Della Cruscan poetry.”

“Can I borrow it?”

“You can borrow the idea.”

“No good. I don’t have time to do research.”

“Do you have any ideas?”

“I know what I want to say about Thomas Pynchon, but I don’t feel like finding the bullshit sources to frame my argument.”

“It’s just an assignment to do.”

“But it’s not ME.”

“So? My paper isn’t ME, either. It’s just what I was told to do for the grade. That’s how it is when you’re a student.”

“I just don’t like to be boxed in.”

“But you say you work best when you have limits.”

“Fuck. Do you remember everything I say?”

“More or less.”

“Then you know I’m a contradiction. A bundle of tendencies.”

“That’s great. So am I.”

“But I’m a failed solopsist who just realized it. Descartes was wrong from the start. You know he came up with his theory by staying in bed for weeks, right?”


“He was wrong, because we can only know ourselves in context of other people. I haven’t found the right person to bounce myself off of yet.”


“I need answers. What would an existentialist say to someone in my position with three papers to write in one and a half weeks?”

“You’re in an absurd situation. It would be absurd for you to write the papers and absurd not to write them.”

“Really, you can write them or not in existential terms. The important thing is that you make a choice. You said my losing my notebook was an opportunity, and in that sense, you also have an opportunity to pull that shit out of your ass or not.”

“I like pulling things out if my ass. I love taking a crap. I took one when we stopped at Kmart. That was my crap for the day, and it felt good.”

“You must have an anal fixation.”

“Well, everyone thinks I’m going to pull my papers out of there. When I told Dr. Reemes last week that I have nothing for my Pynchon presentation this week, she said she knew I’d pull through because of my good karma.”

“It’s your choice. It‘s not too late. We’ve both written papers in three days.”

“Including research?”

“Yes. I know you have.”

“Yeah, I have. Two days to research and one day to write. I can do it.”

“There you go.”

“But I don’t feel like doing it.”

“Well, then don‘t. For the absurd man, the only way you can really go wrong is by doing nothing, letting the absurdity act upon you instead of acting upon the absurd yourself.”

“If I’m absurd, then why bother?”

“It’s Camus’s revision of the Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus keeps pushing the rock uphill in hopes that this time it won‘t roll over him back top the bottom of the hill, although every time he gets to the top, that‘s what happens.”

“But that’s different. He was damned.”

“But in Camus’s interpretation, it’s not about being damned, or rather, we’re born damned to the fact of absurdity--we live and we die. The only weapon we have against the absurd is revolt, as in The Rebel.”
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