UCSB will celebrate the 100th anniversary of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s birth next week with a six-day mixed media festival that organizers hope will appeal to everyone from philosophy buffs to casual attendees.
The Sartre Centennial Celebration, which will run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4, will feature several free events, the majority of which will be held on campus. Included in the festival is a staged reading of Sartre’s most famous play, No Exit, an exhibition of his manuscripts, an existentialist film, academic discussions of his work and even a jazz concert.
The philosopher’s work brought attention to previously unexplored subjects, such as how society categorizes individuals into groups according to social, political and economic positions, French and Italian Studies professor Ernest Sturm said.
Sartre, who passed away in 1980, widely publicized his philosophy and politics during his lifetime, provoking opposition from many groups, Sturm said.
“In his day, Sartre’s outspokenness rubbed ideologues of all ilks the wrong way: capitalists, Communists, Christians and other right-thinking people,” Strum said.
Born in Paris in 1905, Sartre took interest in philosophy during his teenage years. He followed philosophers such as Friedrich Hegel, Martin Heidegger and Immanuel Kant, yet soon established a reputation of his own. His best-known works of philosophy include Being and Nothingness (1943) and Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960).
Sartre was a proponent of existentialism, a field of philosophy that stresses the importance of life experiences in establishing opinions and ideas, as opposed to reliance on innate knowledge.
Aside from the manuscript exhibition, located in downtown Santa Barbara, all events will take place at UCSB. The celebration will begin with readings of No Exit on both Nov. 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. in the Snidecor Hall Studio Theater. Paul Desruisseaux, associate vice chancellor for public affairs, said dramatic arts professor Irwin Appel will direct the reading.
A Sartre colloquium, located in the McCune Conference Room on the sixth floor of HSSB, will take place Thursday Dec. 1 at 3 p.m. and will conclude Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. Sturm said a host of distinguished national and international philosophers and scholars will be in attendance.
Inspired by one of Sartre’s loves, festival organizers arranged two evenings of French-influenced and local jazz music, said Tracey Morris, program assistant for the UC Institute for Research in the Arts. Local musical group the Rob Wallace Jazz Ensemble is slated to perform Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Art Gallery of the College of Creative Studies (CCS).
The ensemble will join local group Gendarmes du Swing, as well as French trumpeter Alain Brunet, for a full concert Sunday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in the CCS Old Little Theater.
The Karpeles Manuscript Museum, located at 21 West Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara, will host the Sartre Manuscripts and Books Exhibit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2 and 3. Sturm said the philosopher’s manuscripts are particularly interesting, as some were penned on random scraps of paper the prolific writer used to jot down his thoughts quickly.
The museum is also showing the 1959 film, “Black Orpheus” by French director Marcel Camus – not to be confused with Sartre’s fellow existentialist philosopher Albert Camus – Saturday at 4 p.m. The film reinterprets the Greek myth “Orpheus and Eurydice” with Brazil’s famous Carnivale as its background.
While Camus’ film was directed over 40 years ago, a multitude of documentaries and publications focusing on Sartre continue to be made even today, Sturm said.
“The dozens of books, magazines, articles, conferences and films that have appeared on Sartre’s behalf this year confirm the timeliness of the existential philosopher’s commitment and the timelessness of his thought,” Sturm said. “His gaze shaped our way of viewing the world.”