Learning from Myths and Metaphors
Chapter 4. Negotiating Contingency: Sartre’s Nausea and the Possibility of Losing Control in a Technological World
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NEGOTIATING CONTINGENCY: SARTRE’S NAUSEA AND THE POSSIBILITY OF LOSING CONTROL IN A TECHNOLOGICAL WORLD
Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer working on researching the life of an eighteenth century political figure by the name of Rollebon. Set in the fictional seaside town of Bouville during the winter of 1932, the novel describes how Roquentin begins to feel a growing sense of existential anxiety and nausea in the course of his daily research work and interactions with others. Confronted with the contingency of ordinary objects and events, Roquentin becomes increasingly disgusted with his own life and is almost driven to insanity. Gradually, however, he comes to accept the provisional nature of existence and the indifference of the physical world to people’s aspirations. By the end of the novel, Roquentin is able to view the contingency and indeterminacy of human existence in a more positive light while appreciating the opportunity that it provides people to choose their own destiny, construct their own meanings, and take responsibility for their decisions.
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