James Deys, Binghamton University
I currently am a PhD Candidate in English Literature at Binghamton University. My interests include the Modern and Contemporary British Novel, British Cultural Studies, Existentialism, Poststructuralism, the 18th Century Novel, Composition, Issues of Literacy, and Writing about Popular Music. Besides teaching and tutoring, I also play guitar in a local blues band and I enjoy playing, learning, and collecting "old" popular music.
Releasing the Positive Potentialities of Roquentin's Ontological and Aesthetic Solution in La Nausée
Within Jean-Paul Sartre's highly complicated and existential work La Nausée, the character of Roquentin struggles with his being-in-the-world, with existence, and with what he can do in response to his existential-ontological crisis. Roquentin is interested in capturing the "un-capturable" being-in-the-world through art, (writing), so that a potential reader can experience be-ing in all of its temporality and contingency. My inquiry will revolve around the often invisible interrelationships between the temporal dynamics of being-in-the-world and the work of art, particularly the jazz song, "Some of These Days" and Roquentin's potential book, which are central to understanding the aesthetical and ontological disclosures within La Nausée. I will explore Roquentin's pivotal existential crisis and phenomenological experience with the jazz song "Some of These Days"; I am interested in Roquentin's and Sartre's, (often read as the same person), view of art, as well as Roquentin's final aesthetic solution in response to his existential crisis. While Roquentin essentially calls for a different kind of writing, writing that would enact and recreate the temporal dynamics of being, many critics have misread Roquentin's finishing statement as ironic or in "bad faith": "It [Roquentin's potential book] would have to be beautiful and hard as steel and make people ashamed of their existence" (La Nausée 178). However, Roquentin is not guilty of "bad faith;" rather, he is fully conscious of the potentialities of re-enacting "being-in-the-world" through art. His potential book would attempt to make him and his readers conscious and "ashamed" of existence—"ashamed," as Roquentin uses the word, in a positive sense—by experiencing art that recreates the temporal dynamics of being. Through this recreation, one is left with a kind of consciousness of the constructions of existence, which then leads to "a sort of joy" (La Nausée 177-8). Roquentin's aesthetic solution, then, must be a book as "hard as steel"; simultaneously, though, this book must recreate temporal be-ing. In short, Roquentin paradoxically hopes that his potential book will serve to capture, in order to release, the temporal dynamics of being.