Philosophical Approach to Literary Criticism: A Philosophical Reading of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit


  • Azhar Suhail Atiyah Master of Arts in English Literature Basra Educational Directorate


Literature, philosophy, freedom, responsibility, Others, self-deception, essence, existence


The study concerns contemporary criticism. In criticism, four philosophical approaches have prevailed: existentialism, Marxism, psychology and structuralism which are divided into three major directions: realism, idealism, and existentialism. Many of Sartre's philosophical arguments are synthesized with fiction. Sartre No Exit (1989) is a portrayal of life after death, in which three dead people are punished by being trapped together. It is the source of Sartre's well-known and misperceived quote "Hell is other people."ٍ (P.45). In No Exit, one's freedom is limited by the gaze of others. As Sartre believes existence precedes essence. The play's main themes revolve around freedom. However, in addition to this freedom of choice, there is also an absolute responsibility for man’s actions. Accordingly, as a result of fear and anxiety related to this responsibility, people tend to disregard their freedom as well as their responsibility. The writer utilizes his play No Exit to discuss several of the existentialist themes explored in his philosophical study Being and Nothingness. No Exit focuses prominently on the ideas of the "look and others", "competitive subjectivity", "bad faith" (self-deception) and "objectification". Philosophies of criticism are methods for studying the philosophy of the critic's implicit and explicit impulses. Thus, existentialism is not a single philosophy but philosophies that make existence precede its essence. Man proves his existence when he could think, plan and be creative. The writer asserts his freedom through literature which is the realization of his own life plan. It is not only existentialism that presents the literary criticism in this way, but after World War II, other critics such as Gaetan Picon and Pierre-Henri Simon described and judged the ethics of the writer whom they were studying through various philosophies