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A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy


A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. The book begins as Susannah wakes up screaming. At this point, we have no idea why. What do we find out about her inner life as the book progresses?

2. What role do dreams play in the book? Reference the recurring image on pages 64—65 of being “in a white car traveling along a black road.”

3. On page 16, Susannah devises a way to walk all the way through a student pub without “feeling like an idiot.” She seems self-conscious and insecure. Does she become more confident as the story continues? If so, why?

4. How do Jason and Rob fulfill different needs for Susannah?

5. Compare the university environment in which Susannah studies with the company she keeps outside of school. Specifically, compare the party at Robs house on page 26 with the scene in the London bar on page 47. Does social class play a role? Or is it age? Does Susannah seem comfortable in either setting?

6. On page 42, a tarot card reader on the train deals Susannah an illustrated card of a jester with the words The Fool written on the bottom. What does this suggest about Susannah and her peers?

7. Susannah doesnt divulge too much about her family. Discuss what you know about her father, her mother, and her hometown.

8. Do you think the death of Susannahs father subconsciously influences her decisions as regards her love life?

9. How does Susannah view the different settings of her life: the student housing on campus, Jasons flat in London, her mothers home in Swansea?

10. What do you make of Jasons reaction to her pregnancy? Do you think his rejection of her is forgivable? Compare this with Robs reaction.

11. What roles do Susannahs friends Cassie and Fiona play in the book?

12. “Susannah turns to the great male philosophers for guidance, in the absence of help from her parents and teachers.” Is this statement true, do you think?

13. The part titles of the book mimic the curriculum for an introductory philosophy course. What do you think of this device?

14. Nietzsche is discussed in the first section, under “Short Loan,” implying that his philosophy is not very useful; Heidegger under “Reference” (more useful); and Kierkegaard under “Long Loan” (very useful). Do you agree?

15. What does Susannah learn from her discussion with Søren Kierkegaard?

16. Do you think Susannah makes the right decision in the end? Is there a right decision?

17. This novel takes place in 1974. Do you think attitudes have changed since this time?

18. The story is set in a seaside town in Britain. Do the characters behave differently than how they would in the U.S.?

19. Is philosophy useful for making life decisions? Would Susannah have done better to visit a student counselor?

20. Did you learn anything about philosophy from reading this novel?

21. In the first part of the novel, Susannah reads about Nietzsches idea of the “free spirit” (pp. 20—23). What is her initial response to this idea? How does her view change, and why (pp. 174—5)?

22. The book is set at a period when philosophers such as Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend were making claims that science proceeds in an irrational way (pp. 39—42, 55—56.) Do you think there is any truth to these claims?

23. How does Susannah attempt to explain Heideggers notion of “being in the world” in the context of Western philosophy (p. 176)?

24. Susannah sees her pregnant state as being an embodiment of Heideggers idea that there is “really no difference between subject and object” (pp. 214—8). Is her argument is persuasive?

25. In Susannahs tutorial, she, Belham, and Rob discuss Kierkegaards “leap of faith” (pp. 185—6). How is this relevant to the dilemma she is facing in her personal life?

26. Susannah sees a connection between the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac in Kierkegaards Fear and Trembling and the issue of abortion (pp. 205—213, 239—241). Is this a valid way of looking at Fear and Trembling?

27. What does Susannah learn from her conversation with Søren Kierkegaard in chapter 24?

28. Do you think Kierkegaard would have regarded Susannahs ultimate decision as a moral one?

29. By the end of the book, how useful has Susannah found the teachings of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Kierkegaard, respectively?

30. In your view, can philosophy help us make important decisions in our daily lives?

Product Details

Greig, Charlotte
Other Press (NY)
Triangles (Interpersonal relations)
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.40x5.50x.90 in. .75 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women

A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy Used Trade Paper
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$11.50 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Other Press - English 9781590513170 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In her first novel, singer-songwriter and music journalist Greig examines the case of second-year philosophy student Susanna, who frequently wakes up, screaming, from disconcerting dreams. It's not so much the demands of her course load at the University of Sussex — Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Freud and friends — as it is Susanna's own experience with Nietzsche's 'great separation,' or the sudden realization that 'everything... means nothing to you.' Her boyfriend, Jason, an antiques dealer 10 years her senior, is stingy with affection. Which helps explain why Susanna falls for Rob, a brooding yet innocent-seeming classmate who frequents the dingy campus bars, digs a good protest and lives in dilapidated communal housing. Torn, Susanna opts to date both — it's the swinging '70s, after all — but the back-and-forth leaves her dizzy, and when she discovers she's pregnant and realizes the father could be either man, neither her tutor nor her girlfriends can assuage her. Fumbling through the smoky corridors and lofty ideals of academia, Susanna is, like so many student philosophers, equal parts endearing and insufferable, and even if her dilemma isn't the most original, Greig makes it uniquely hers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , "A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy" is a delightfully insightful, bittersweet coming-of-age romp, in which love is far from platonic and the mind-body predicament becomes a pressing reality.
"Synopsis" by , Susannah's official boyfriend, Jason, is the perfect foil for her student lifestyle. He is ten years older, an antiques dealer, and owns a stylish apartment that prevents her from having to live in the seedy digs on campus. This way, she can take her philosophy major very seriously and dabble in the social and sexual freedom of 1970s university life. But circumstances become more complicated than Susannah would like when she begins to have an affair with her tutorial partner, Rob. Soon she is dating two men, missing her lectures, exploring independence and feminism with her girlfriends, and finding herself in a particularly impossible dilemma: she becomes pregnant. Forced to look beyond her friends and lovers for support, she finds help and inspiration from the lessons of Kierkegaard and other European philosophers.

A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy is a delightfully insightful, bittersweet coming-of-age romp, in which love is far from platonic and the mind--body predicament a pressing reality. It even succeeds where many introductions to philosophy have failed, by effortlessly bringing to life the central tenets of the most important European philosophers of modern times.

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