Date of Award
Department or Program
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has engaged millions of individuals in an existential crisis of values and purpose, echoing throughout “the Great Resignation,” in which 45% or more of Americans have been actively seeking new employment and change in lifestyle (Backman).
Walter Kaufmann’s question and answer,
…could it be that at least some part of what the existentialists attempt to do is best done in art and not philosophy? …at some given time and place one of the arts …says more adequately what the others say less well (Kaufmann 49),
inspires this thesis project—in the form of a screenplay—to answer how existential philosophy explains or applies to the angst in both an evergreen context and this moment of upheaval.
My story loosely tracks to the Book of Job as an existential touchstone. I outlined Job against the scene-by-scene breakdown of my screenplay to determine where I would be in line with—and break from—Job.
Job experiences over-the-top adversity, as does Tracey. To help determine the tone of my screenplay, I read existentially-themed stage plays, listened to radio plays online, and watched films and streamed shows.
The bulk of my research entailed reading and absorbing essays and books to understand the arguments of existential thinkers. I have applied core philosophies of Bultmann, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Sartre to the attitudes expressed by characters.
Tracey was first featured in my graphic novel Strugglers, as a singer/songwriter just starting her career. Here, at the seeming end of it, peer-reviewed articles about the music of Liz Phair, as well as contemporary articles about Phair’s life, and her most recent album (with its themes of indecision and compromise), inform Tracey’s character today.
Lastly, I have read extensively on “the Great Resignation,” from early observations about the phenomenon, to data available a year after the wave began.
The resulting slightly offbeat three-act screenplay hurls obstacles after obstacle at Tracey, whose interpersonal dialogues help set her on a path to existential liberation.
The protagonist concludes existence may be what you make of it, though ultimately meaningless; one can only strive to be and make others happy as much as circumstances allow.
Poisson, Timothy and Fish, Tim, "Tracey in the 16th Minute" (2022). Dartmouth College Master’s Theses. 60.