- Jun 28, 2015
A series of six lectures was given by Professor Chiara Mengozzi of the University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic. The theme of the lectures was "The struggle for recognition between philosophy and literature : post-colonial scenarios".
Professor Mengozzi's classes began with a commentary on the well-known passage, the "Master-slave dialectic", in Hegel's The Phenomenology of Spirit. The passage asserts that for humans to exist freely and independently necessitates others' recognition; although struggles emerge when striving for a mutual recognition between people, the slave, who has at first a subordinate existence, will, through his work, make the master reliant upon himself, and finally achieve independence. This "Master-slave dialectic" has featured in many varied interpretations of post-colonial literature.
With this commentary still in mind, the second and following sessions were taken up mainly by student presentations. The first topic to be raised was that of Frantz Fanon (1925-1961). Hegel's issue of self-consciousness is expressed strongly in Fanon's Black skin, white masks (1952). We found that Fanon, in this work, however, takes a skeptical attitude towards the ability of the "Master-slave dialectic" to explain the distortion in the relationship with others brought about by a consciousness of being black.
We next turned to Being and nothingness (1943) and Black Orpheus (1948), both by Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). This led to a debate of proletarian literature in general, and its successive post-colonial literature. With the "Master-slave dialectic" as axis, issues were raised, in particular, of language. Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache (an anthology of work by African poets in French colonies; compiled by Léopold Senghor), for which Sartre's "Orphée Noir" (Black Orpheus) served as Introduction, established an African-style of writing, be it in French. Those of minority languages have continued to make use of the colonial languages, with "stereoptype" intellectual literary achievement later succeeded by Nuruddin Farah, Chinua Achebe etc., and even those such as Kazuo Ishiguro.
The second half of the lectures looked exclusively at literary works by post-colonial authors including Ennio Flaiano and Michel Tournier. Of Tournier's works, Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique (Friday, or the other island) was chosen whose story is set on an unihabited island. Through the two opposite-type protagonists, Robinson and Friday, who embody "civilisation" and "barbarism" respectively, and their peculiar subordinate-superior relationship, it achieves a spectacular parody of the various issues surrounding Hegel's "Master-slave dialectic" of self acceptance and the acceptance of the other.
Professor Mengozzi's classes used problems of philosophy to facilitate further interpretation of literary works, as well as using literary works to question philosophy and to reconsider philosophy more deeply. Literature with particular narrative style and linguistic use delves into the realms of philosophy, providing philosophy with new ways to develop. Participants in the classes thus spent an incredibly stimulating six days coming in contact with the philosophical, poetical, and political life-force of present-day literature.