“Why Write”?

What seem to have been some major influences on Sartre’s writing?

What are some of the most important concepts or definitions proposed in this essay?

What is the motive for writing, in his view? (need to feel essential in relation to world, 1336)

What is the relationship between the writer and the work? Why cannot s/he be its ideal reader? (1337)

What is meant by his claim that the “literary object is a peculiar top which exists only in motion”? (1337)

To what extent to Sartre’s views of reading resemble those of Georges Poulet?

What is the nature of the reading process? (openended and directed toward the future, as the reader experiences hypotheses, dreams, hopes and deceptions, 1338)

What part do the writer and reader each play in this process? (a joint effort, 1338)

Why is reading not a purely unstructured act? (directed creation, 1339)

In what sense is all literary work an appeal? (1340) What does it mean to say that the writer appeals to the freedom of the reader? (1340)

How is this doctrine a rewriting of the views of Kant? (Kant had postulated an aesthetic freedom based on the prior existence of the work of art, 1341)

Why is it necessary to avoid a direct appeal to the emotions? (passion must to some degree be presented in distanced form, to permit the freedom of the reader, 1341)

In what sense to the reader’s feelings have their source in freedom? (1342)

What is conveyed by the instance of a person who in reality behaves badly toward others but weeps at the plight of characters in a book? (the man who is reading raises himself, 1342)

What is the purpose of art? ("to recover this world by giving it to be seen as it is, but as if it had its source in human freedom,” 1346)

Can these dual goals be consistent? (for Sartre, yes, because he posits a world in which human beings are forced to make choices--"The world is my task," 1347)

Why is our reading not impartial? What error does he attribute to realism? (asssumes that the proper response to a presentation of reality is contemplation, not action, 1347)

What is the relationship of generosity to writing? (writing an exigence and a gift, 1348) What then can be said about ungenerous writing?

In what sense can one say that a moral imperative lies behind literature? (1348) Would all agree with him?

According to Sartre, can one write a good novel in praise of anti-Semitism? 1349

What does it mean to say that the art of prose is bound up with democracy? (1349) What forms of writing does he seem to have in mind? Would other writers you have read agreed?

Page numbers are from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001.