Ph 68 Summer 2001 David Banach

Preceptorial: Camus

Letís not beat around the bush; I love life--thatís my real weakness. I love it so much that I am incapable of imagining what is not life. (The Fall)

Every ambiguity, every misunderstanding, leads to death; clear language and simple words are the only salvation from it

The preceding merely defines a way of thinking. But the point is to live. (The Myth of Sisyphus)

The Course:

This course is a seminar devoted to an examination of major written work of Albert Camus, especially novels and collections of philosophic essays. The main work of the course is a careful reading and discussion of the texts.

Camusí life and work were dominated by the juxtaposition of an indomitable will towards happiness and justice on one hand and the indifference and hostility of the world on the other hand. This juxtaposition constitutes the absurd. We will follow the development and application of these ideas through three major stages in Camus's work: (1) The Stranger/The Myth of Sisyphus: These great early works written under the shadow of the German occupation of France set forth the initial account of the dilemma of modern man and Camus's solution to it. (2) The Rebel/The Plague: In these works Camus is concerned with making clear the implications and applications of his earlier ideas to the problems of the post-war world. In them he faces the problem of how a human being who faces the absurd can engage themselves in the world and in politics. His writings in this period opened him up to severe criticism from political activists both in France and his native Algeria, as well as leading to his famous rift with Jean Paul Sartre. (3) The Fall/Exile and the Kingdom: following a non-productive interval after the publication of The Rebel, Camus turned his attention to more personal and psychological topics dealing with the internal failings of human nature in achieving authenticity in the face of the absurd."

Office: Bradley House 309 Office phone: 641-7062

email- personal webpage: course webpage:


1. Albert Camus. The Plague. Vintage 0679720219
2. Albert Camus. A Happy Death Vintage V865 394-71865-8
3. Albert Camus. The Myth of Sisyphus. Vintage V75, 394-70075-9
4. Albert Camus. Exile and the Kingdom. Vintage ISBN: 067973385X
5 Albert Camus. The First Man. Vintage 0679768165
6. Albert Camus. The Fall. Vintage (V223) 0-394-70223-9.
7. Albert Camus. The Stranger. Vintage, V-2. 0-394-70002-3. O'Brien translation.

8. Albert Camus. Caligula. From Web-page.



Participation 40% Thesis Paper 30% Final Exam 30%


This Course is a seminar in which most of the learning is effected by your direct engagement with a great mind. You are expected to come to each seminar prepared. This preparation should involve:

1. Reading of the required material.

2. Familiarizing yourself with the background information necessary to understand the context, audience, and intended purpose of the text.

3. Making a written list or outline of important ideas, facts, or issues in the reading. This may be collected at any time and be used in determining your participation grade.

4. Formulating your ideas, opinions, and arguments concerning these issues or problems.

5. Formulating a list of questions, ideas, observations, or comments on the general topic of the required reading.

You will be given a grade each meeting for your participation in the seminar discussions. You will get a zero for any seminar which you do not attend. All valid excuses for missing class must be presented in writing.


Criteria for evaluation:

1. Familiarity with material in readings: If you show, by your inability to answer a question, or in some other way, that you failed to do the reading, you will most likely get a failing grade for that seminar.

2. Ability to identify and comment on important issues and ideas: You should have prepared a list of important issues and your ideas on them, so you can volunteer them or provide them when asked.

3. Organization and clarity of presentation: Your comments should be related to the issue under discussion, should further the discussion, and should be presented as clearly and concisely as possible.

4. Rigorous Argument: You should be prepared to defend your claims with arguments.

5. Seriousness and interest: You should take the issues we discuss seriously and try to become interested in them.

6. Originality and creativity: You should demonstrate an ability to think for yourself, to evaluate claims for yourself, and to formulate your own arguments for your positions.

You are encouraged to check you participation grade regularly and to discuss any deficiencies with me.

Final Exam:
The Final Exam is a cumulative exam. It will include short questions on the readings as well as essay questions requiring you to discuss issues. Besides being 30% of your grade it is also the primary factor in deciding borderline cases. In cases of extraordinarily good performances on the final exam, I retain the option of raising the final course grade to accord more with the final exam grade. The Final Exam must be taken when scheduled. Under no circumstances may it be taken after the scheduled date.

Thesis Paper/Presentations: Each student must defend a two theses, each about a work from a different section of the course. The student is expected to (1) choose an issue, problem, or interesting insight from one of the works we have read, (2) explain the origin and significance of the issue or problem, and (3) to defend a thesis on this issue. You should note that this project cannot be merely exposition or explanation of a text. You are encouraged to discuss your topic with me before beginning work. You may complete your thesis project in one of two ways:

(A) Paper Option: A 3-7 (800 to 2000 words) paper. This is a formal paper and if you choose this option part of your grade will be determined by writing, grammar, and documentation. Expectations for clarity of exposition and expression will be higher for the written option.

(B) Oral Thesis Defense Option: To use this option you must make an appointment 1 week in advance to come to my office for your defense. You will orally present a 5-10 minute introduction to the issue and your thesis and then will undergo a 10-20 minute examination in which you will defend your thesis against objections. There is no written requirement for this option. Here the emphasis is on your ability to defend your thesis with rigor against objections.

Guidelines for papers and oral examinations will be explained in class at the appropriate time. No late projects or extensions. Don't even think about it.




Your grade will be determined as follows:

1. Participation 400

2 Thesis Paper 300

3. inal 300


Total 1000

A --- 950 and above C- -- 700 to 724

A- -- 900 to 949 D+ -- 670 to 699

B+ -- 875 to 899 D --- 600 to 669

B --- 835 to 874 E --- below 600

B- -- 800 to 834

C+ -- 775 to 799

C --- 725 to 774