Project Title

Sartre, Nietzsche, and Prufrock's Existential Becoming

Presenters

Luan JoubertFollow

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - English

Faculty Sponsor Name

Dr. Lara Smith-Sitton

Additional Faculty

Dr. Lara Smith-Sitton, English, lsmith11@kennesaw.edu

My project did not use anything that required approval, since it is a textual analysis

Abstract (300 words maximum)

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Eliot refers to Prufrock’s “overwhelming question” throughout the poem. Its repetition becomes the dubious center missing throughout the lines of the poem. This project is guided by a primary research question: how does an existential understanding of Prufrock help us navigate as well as track the progression of the romantic ideal that history is progress and the search for authenticity between two centuries, specifically the Nietzschian Übermensch and Sartre’s existential authenticity? The existential reading reveals both the equivocal question and answer central to the poem itself: Prufrock’s authenticity. The vein of technology proliferating the lives of individuals in today’s world exacerbates the ignorance at the center of their lives due to this period’s predilection towards unrestrained subjectivity. Social media and other digital spaces create an extension and permutation of the Nietzschean State ruled by pseudo culture that vies for power over the modern man as it did for Prufrock in his era, revealing the poem as a power struggle between becoming oneself through self-mastery as the Übermensch or falling victim to the power of the state and being subordinated to the “last man”. Throughout the poem’s meandering, Eliot reveals Prufrock’s search for authenticity leading him to intersect with what Sartre termed “the look,” bringing into discussion the concept of the Other. These themes inherent in the poem are evident in the twenty-first century when considering how technology presents another buffer between individuals and their authentic selves by way of rapid new conceptualizations.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

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Sartre, Nietzsche, and Prufrock's Existential Becoming

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Eliot refers to Prufrock’s “overwhelming question” throughout the poem. Its repetition becomes the dubious center missing throughout the lines of the poem. This project is guided by a primary research question: how does an existential understanding of Prufrock help us navigate as well as track the progression of the romantic ideal that history is progress and the search for authenticity between two centuries, specifically the Nietzschian Übermensch and Sartre’s existential authenticity? The existential reading reveals both the equivocal question and answer central to the poem itself: Prufrock’s authenticity. The vein of technology proliferating the lives of individuals in today’s world exacerbates the ignorance at the center of their lives due to this period’s predilection towards unrestrained subjectivity. Social media and other digital spaces create an extension and permutation of the Nietzschean State ruled by pseudo culture that vies for power over the modern man as it did for Prufrock in his era, revealing the poem as a power struggle between becoming oneself through self-mastery as the Übermensch or falling victim to the power of the state and being subordinated to the “last man”. Throughout the poem’s meandering, Eliot reveals Prufrock’s search for authenticity leading him to intersect with what Sartre termed “the look,” bringing into discussion the concept of the Other. These themes inherent in the poem are evident in the twenty-first century when considering how technology presents another buffer between individuals and their authentic selves by way of rapid new conceptualizations.