What survival strategies helped? What got most in the way of psychological well-being?

Frankl’s Meaning of Life

Length: ~800 words

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This assignment requires that you read the Preface and the main, original book (pp. 3-93 in the Beacon Press edition, “Experiences from a Concentration Camp”) of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and write a reflection paper on it. The paper does not require further research. Do not write about the topic of logotherapy, which is Part 2 of the book.

Select a particular theme and explore how it comes up in the book, adding your own thoughtful comments and reflections. You may focus on one of the themes in the following list, or come up with one of your own. To give your paper more focus and depth, choose one theme only. Possible themes, and some suggested accompanying questions, are:

  • Dehumanization: How does it happen? How is it dealt with or mitigated against? What does it suggest about what being human is about? About good and evil?
  • Suffering: What can we learn from it? What is meant by “being worthy of one’s suffering”? Are there limits to suffering?
  • Fate: What is it? Can it be trusted? What is Viktor Frankl’s attitude towards it?
  • Psychological effects of camp life: What survival strategies helped? What got most in the way of psychological well-being? Are there worse things than death?
  • Meaning of Life: What does Frankl think this is? Is it helpful to dwell on this question? What might be a “meaning” of the Holocaust?

You should draw from across the whole original book generally (i.e. pp. 3-93) rather than just focusing just one small section. Be sure to cite page numbers in-text and include a Works Cited list. To conserve paper, use 1.5 spacing, no title page, and there’s no need to begin a new page for the Works Cited. You need to be present in class that day, and come prepared to share your reflections with your classmates in small groups.

Remember that In the Humanities, a key focus of exploration is on what it means to be human, and a guiding question throughout this course is to ask what meaning humans derive from the fact of their death. There is no “right answer”! This assignment gives you an opportunity to explore ultimate questions around life and death, good and evil, fate and meaning, suffering and redemption, etc.

Marks will be given based on evidence that you can:

  • Grapple with your chosen theme in a mature way
  • Find, summarize and cite relevant passages in the book that back up your theme
  • Attempt to come to an empathic understanding of what Frankl experienced
  • Add your own thoughtful response to, or reflections on, the topic
  • Write a well-structured paper that is clear and easy to follow, with • good opening & closing paragraphs, • good attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation & sentence structure, and • in-text citations with page #s

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