The truth behind the door - Strindberg and existentialism

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Szemerda, Karolina
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BA (Hons) in Film, Literature and Drama
Dublin Business School
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The objective of this Final Year Project is to examine the connection between August Strindberg‟s drama and Existential philosophy. I will attempt to identify the main concepts of Existentialism, and demonstrate how these concepts were explored by existential thinkers such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. This work will examine Strindberg‟s earlier period of drama predominantly influenced by Nietzsche‟s ideology and his later period of drama intrinsically influenced by Kierkegaard‟s philosophy. In this Final Year Project I will use Strindberg plays such as Miss Julie, The Father and The Creditors to illustrate Nietzsche‟s concepts of „„will to power‟‟ and „„perspectives‟‟. Nietzsche‟s rejection of all established values, his nihilism, and „„the power battle‟‟ evidently share underlying themes of Strindberg‟s naturalistic plays. Kierkegaard‟s concept of the „„true individual‟‟ and the existential idea of repetition, clearly manifest themselves in Strindberg works such as The Dance of Death, A Dream Play and The Chamber Plays. I will also present that Kierkegaard‟s belief that one can only attain authentic truth through „„passionate inwardness‟‟ plays a significant role in Strindberg‟s drama. I will demonstrate that human development, spiritual development and „becoming‟ are bound to progress through a state of sickness, fear and trembling. These notions were emphasized in Kierkegaard‟s writings and prevail throughout Strindberg‟s works. This case study will highlight that Strindberg‟s beliefs were predominantly influenced and anticipated by Existentialists such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. The results of this Final Year Project show that although Strindberg is mainly associated with such movements as Naturalism and Expressionism, his drama significantly focused on existential exploration.