TALK: The Po-ethics of Mediterranean Melancholia

Laura Sarnelli (IHC Visiting Scholar, University of Naples L’Orientale)
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The psychoanalytical notion of melancholia has recently received increasing critical attention in the field of cultural and postcolonial studies. As an emotional reaction to the denial of the loss of a loved object, be it personal, collective, historical or cultural, melancholia has emerged as a critical touchstone for subjective as well as political formations. This talk explores the reconfigurations of the contemporary Mediterranean in Italian literature and culture in the light of a theoretical framework that revalues the transformative power of the melancholic process beyond its pathological connotations, as a critical tool for healing and an ethical response to loss. The refusal to let go of lost objects or past griefs takes on the form of political commitment and resistance against normative mourning; namely, against those strategies of amnesia which are meant to preserve the hegemonic social and political order without accounting for the issue of ethical responsibility. Reclaiming the body of the past by taking care of it means to revalue a crucial understanding of the present (the myth of Antigone proves central to this investigation). Focusing on the legacy of Italian colonial history, the talk will examine some poetical and aesthetical representations of contemporary migrations in the Mediterranean as an expression of critical melancholia.

Sponsored by the Department of French and Italian Studies and the IHC’s Value of Care series.

Click here to listen to a recording of Laura Sarnelli’s talk for the IHC’s Value of Care series.

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