Literature of the Meaning Crisis


The many twentieth century elegies—from Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad, and Herman Melville, among others—depicted the madness that grips human beings when our primordial spirituality resurfaces without a symbolic container to tame it. They illustrated the horror of will without wisdom, the realization that we lack an ultimate measure of realness, of goodness, some higher order that can guide the course and direction of our lives. Pure will revealed itself to be destructive, so we call out for some new cosmic constraint, something to tell us what the world is, and who we are within it. What must we do? How must we live? We cry these questions into a vacuum. “If there is no God,” Dostoyevsky famously wrote, “then everything is permitted.”    

~ Excerpt from the upcoming book, Awakening from the Meaning Crisis 

The greatest heralds of human grief are not philosophers, but artists. In this 8-week course, Dr. John Vervaeke will explore some of the most significant literary figures of the meaning crisis, powerful works of literature that depicted the fitfulness and existential agony of the modern person, and his unsheltered encounter with the numinous.

What You'll Learn

  • 01 Lectures

    • 1 Week 1 – Moby Dick (Part 1 of 2) – Herman Melville
    • 2 Week 2 – Moby Dick (Part 2 of 2) – Herman Melville
    • 3 Week 3 – Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
    • 4 Week 4 – The Death of Ivan Illych – Leo Tolstoy
    • 5 Week 5 – The Plague – Albert Camus
    • 6 Week 6 – Death in Venice – Thomas Mann
    • 7 Week 7 – Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
    • 8 Week 8 – Poetry – Arnold, Yeats, Pow, Rilke