Publication Date

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


World Languages and Literatures


Dominique van Hooff


Baudelaire, Camus, detachment, evil, mysticism, void

Subject Areas

European studies; Classical literature; Literature


During the seventeenth century, Pascal explored the causality and effect of evil upon humanity. In The Pensées, he correlates the role of both lightness and darkness, seemingly two apparently opposite conditions associated with good and evil, as being in fact an intricate vision of the underlying condition affecting humankind, contributing to a better understanding of human existence and serving as a tangible measure of being. This thesis explores how Pascal's concept is redefined through the aesthetic, literary, and philosophical lenses of two French authors: Charles Baudelaire and Albert Camus. It exposes how Baudelaire's and Camus' divergent perceptions arrive at the same perception whereby the void, viewed as the ultimate source of the divine or as the recognition of absurdity, prevails in the end. Both writers reinterpret in their work the presence of evil in a specific context and as a manifestation of malaise. Baudelaire's search for unity guides him as he tries to reinstate evil within humanity according to a mystic approach whereby the poet's aesthetic becomes the prevalent force. While Camus confronts an absurd world, this meaninglessness gives him the freedom to challenge and apprehend evil and transcend its validity to concentrate on total detachment.