Friday, March 3, 2017

Existentialism in film for first year students: "‘What’s going on?’ How seeking meaning is futile in the Coen Brothers’ universe" (Aeon Videos essay)

I am going to preview the film A Serious Man (2009) as something to possibly show in Existential Philosophy during the upcoming fall semester. Aeon has released an intriguing video essay about the film which has prompted me to see what it is all about.

Last fall in our "FYWS" Meaning of Life seminar (a writing-instruction based course with topic selected by each seminar's instructor, for first-year students, so it is called "First Year Writing Seminar" as an institution-wide class that all first year students must take - but again, the themes vary widely from instructor to instructor so long as writing outcomes are met) we watched a good number of existential-theme based films. The course was essentially an "existentialism-for-beginners" type class.

I've found students respond very well to existentialism as presented through film and literature, sometimes even more positively than they would if having to read Sartre's philosophy before his plays. I find reading (or watching) the play first helps.

In any case, I think the below mentioned film might be about perfect for either my Meaning of Life or Existential Philosophy classes. Right now I show Ikiru (1952) and the 1962 adaptation of Sartre's No Exit. Usually there is only enough time to show two films, three at most during the semester - so this seems like a top candidate now.

Link to the Aeon video essay about A Serious Man (2009) below.

'What's going on?' How seeking meaning is futile in the Coen Brothers' universe | Aeon Videos