Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No Exit

Today is one of the most fun days of my semester. It's the day that my TAs and I perform a readers' theater version of Jean-Paul Sartre's famous play No Exit in my Intro to Ethics class as the conclusion of our unit on Sartre's existentialism. It's always a treat for me to be able to bring literature into a philosophy class. When I teach Rousseau we read the entire text of his VERY long epistolary novel, Julie, or the New Heloise (the best-selling novel of the 18th century). And when I teach Sartre, we perform No Exit. My first semester teaching Sartre, I tried to find a video version of the play and couldn't locate one; anyway, I'm terrible at technology. So: why not perform it ourselves?!

I always take the role of Estelle, explaining to my students that they're going to need to pretend that I'm thirty years younger. One TA takes the part of Inez, and another of Garcin. They are always good sports about it. When the script calls for a kiss, we don't kiss, of course; we just stand close and lean in toward each other. The play builds to the wonderful line delivered by Garcin: "Hell is - other people!" At the end we bow and accept the deafening applause (well, the polite scattered clapping) of the somewhat dumbfounded class. We're going to do two performances today: one for my large lecture at 9, and another for my smaller version of the same class (22 students) that I teach in a residential academic program in one of the CU dorms.

On their course evaluations at the end of the semester, students always write that this was their favorite part of the course. It's my favorite part of the course, as well.

And so, on with the show!

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