Term of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Tomasz Warchol

Committee Member 1

Elizabeth Butterfield

Committee Member 2

Candy Schille

Committee Member 3

Candy Schille

Abstract

Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a novel written in response to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's myth of eternal return. Through questioning Nietzsche's myth, Kundera creates an existential framework that rejects eternal return and illustrates his foundational concepts of lightness and weight. Kundera posits that in the absence of eternal return, life becomes meaningless because all of the moments of a person's life disappear the moment that life ceases to be. In order to combat this terrifying prospect, Kundera suggests that a person must combat fate. Likewise, a person may discover how to give significance to life through the pursuit of lightness or weight. This thesis examines the function of lightness and weight and uses them to explore films that visualize Kundera's key concepts. Because the novel has a limited scope, it is difficult to examine the breadth of these concepts and fully unlock their complexities. Removing them from Kundera's novel and using them as a lens to examine films allows the ideas to move from the hypothetical sphere so that they can become fully meaningful.

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