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Les Mots: Sartre and the Language of Belief

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Abstract:

On first reading Les Mots, it was as much of a surprise to note that references to religion and belief were both so frequent and so central to Sartre's unconventional autobiography as it was to learn that the famous Christian missionary Albert Schweitzer was his cousin. Further readings and analyses have reinforced my view that the language of belief plays a critical part in the text. These questions of belief and the references to religion that appear frequently in Les Mots have received less attention. It could be said that these references are merely illustrative of Sartre's attempt to explain himself to himself and to us, and function as any metaphor would. But such a suggestion would fail to account for the many references to religion and belief and to explain why they are so tightly interlinked. We will argue that closer attention to these subjects provides significant insight into the work. Sartre, it would appear, uses a religious template, rather than an existentialist or a Marxist one, to understand his life's project, his past and his present. We will therefore investigate the nature of this use of the language of belief as a religious template and evaluate its significance.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/135715505780282470

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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