In the course of his researches in the Bouville library, Jean-Paul Sartre's anti-hero Antoine Roquentin encounters the solitary, pathetic figure he refers to as the Autodidact. Roquentin is a nomadic philosopher who distances himself from the academic establishment; nevertheless his relationship with the Autodidact rehearses the hierarchy between L'lzomme eU/live and I'lzomme 11011 euLlive, as Roquentin perceives in the other man all that is duhious ahout the untutored pursuit of knowledge. He derides the Autodidact's deference to the authority of other minds, his outsider's longing for the bourgeois culture Roquentin has repudiated, and the disturbing effeminacy of his 'woman's eyelashes' and coyly decorous manner.2 All that is ludicrous about the Autodidact is encapsulated in his mechanical and undiscriminating alphabetical consumption of the books in the library, which Roquentin observes with equal parts horror and wonder. While he can acknowledge the touching heroism of the Autodidact's project, Roquentin is struck by its absurdity.
ANZSRC / FoR Code
2005 LITERARY STUDIES