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Virtual PhD and a Cup of Tea: Jean Améry and Suicide: At Existentialism’s Limits

December 7, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Part of The Wiener Holocaust Library’s PhD and a Cup of Tea doctoral seminar series.Jean Amery memorial stone

The essayist, novelist, philosopher, and Auschwitz survivor Jean Améry’s greatest intellectual influence in the post-war years was Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre’s theory of radical, ontological freedom provided a lifeline for Améry in the aftermath of his experience of exile, torture, and imprisonment in the concentration camps. Existentialism gifted Améry with the conceptual tools necessary to create himself anew. However, Améry’s appropriation of this philosophy came up against limits in the experience of aging, which, in Améry’s account, saw a past marked by suffering, failure and regret solidify, just as the future’s horizon began to recede. Rather than freedom, it is a limitation that would come to define the human experience for Améry. But this gradual erosion of freedom’s potential would be interrupted by what Améry presents as the highest form of autonomy: the act of suicide. This presentation will chart the initial promise and ultimate limitations of Améry’s encounter with Sartre’s existentialism.

About the speaker:

John Spiers is a PhD candidate in Literature, Theology and the Arts in the Theology & Religious Studies department at the University of Glasgow. He holds a master’s degree from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University. His research focuses on existential thought and he has written on Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Shestov, Fondane, Beauvoir, Sartre, and Camus. His doctoral thesis engages with existential themes in Jean Améry’s essayistic writings.

Event guidelines:

1. The Library will send you a Zoom link and joining instructions via email prior to the event. Please check your junk email folders.

2. Please try and join 5 minutes before the event start time and we will let you into the room (do try and bear with us if this takes a few minutes).


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December 7, 2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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