Philosophy as literature - literature as philosophy: from existentialism to the postmodern

Course Dates: 20/09/19 - 06/12/19
Time: 12:30 - 14:30
Location: KS - Keeley Street

From existentialism to post modernism, this course will explore the developing notions of subjectivity and selfhood and the reciprocity between the literary and the philosophical.


What is the course about?

The identity themes in Shakespeare’s Richard the Second, Hamlet and Othello are deeply philosophical explorations of subjectivity and moral undecidiblity.

Keirkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and Sartre’s Nausea are great works of literature and seminal philosophical texts.

Creators of literature such as Kafka, Beckett and Borges were philosophically engaged. In more recent times Richard Rorty redefined the relationship between literature and philosophy as being about the creation and displacement of strong metaphors. Rorty’s view echoed the work of Adorno and Marcuse and other Frankfurt school thinkers who sought to place the aesthetic on the frontline of critical philosophy.

What will we cover?

Identity and subjectivity in Shakespeare
The legacy of Keirkegaard and Nietzsche
The literary experiments of Sartre and Camus
The philosophical underpinnings of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
The Aesthetic theories of Adorno and Marcuse
Richard Rorty on Metaphor
The post modern adventures of Jorge Luis Borges.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

Understand and apply key philosophical concepts of this era.
Identify and analyse the philosophical underpinnings of key literary texts of this era.
Use secondary sources to access and understand primary sources.
To proceed with confidence to develop an independent learning programme in this area of study.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is intended as both an introduction to philosophy and an invitation to reapply existing knowledge.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Teaching will be by interactive lecture and class discussion. Texts wherever possible will be made available a
week in advance.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

A note book and a file would be essential. A copy of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (CUP) and Sartre’s Nausea (Penguin) would be useful background reading.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You might be interested in HP130 - Philosophy and cultural theory - also taught by Barrie Selwyn and starting in January 2020. Please look in the prospectus or check our website - - to see the full range of philosophy courses on offer.

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details

Tutor Biographies
Barrie Selwyn

Barrie Selwyn is a regular tutor at City Lit. Formerly the Principal of Kingston Adult Education, he is the lead tutor for the School of Ideas at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College. Educated at Hackney Downs School, Sussex University and University of London, he is a highly respected adult educationalist specializing in philosophy and literature. Barrie is the Chair of the Kingston Philosophy Café, which he helped to set up in 2007. He is a regular speaker around London philosophy venues, talking on topics such as Nietzsche and the Frankfurt School, Kant and post-Kantian Idealism and Richard Rorty and post-analytic philosophy. He is also an alto saxophonist and a keen jazz fan.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.

Book your place

Course Code: HP105

Fri, day, 20 Sep - 06 Dec '19

Duration: 12 sessions (over 12 weeks)

Full fee: £219.00
Senior fee: £175.00
Concession: £96.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.