Jason Herbeck, a professor and chair of the Department of World Languages, recently presented a paper at the Modern Language Association International Symposium in Lisbon, Portugal.
In keeping with the theme of the symposium, “Remembering Voices Lost,” Herbeck and three colleagues from the United States and France organized a panel devoted to the works of French-Algerian writer Albert Camus.
In his paper, “L’Histoire passée sous silence? Pour un état des lieux d’une relation (coloniale) muette dans ‘La Femme adultère’ d’Albert Camus,” Herbeck addressed the common criticism by some postcolonial scholars who say Camus consistently silences the Arab in his works because of his own unwitting colonial mindset.
By juxtaposing “Misère en Kabylie,” a series of articles about the poverty-stricken Kabylie region of Algeria that Camus wrote as a young journalist, with “La Femme adultère,” a short story Camus published in 1957 at the onset of the Algerian War of Independence from France, Herbeck argued that the latter text can, like the first, be read in economic terms. The Arab shopkeepers in the story wield significant agency and contribute actively, not only to the local economy, but to the livelihood of the French protagonist who is attempting to sell his wares. This vital element of communication at the center of the story underlies Camus’ own efforts to call for negotiation between the French and the Algerians during a particularly unsettling period of the countries’ relationship.
Herbeck also served as a discussant on a panel organized around the theme of resistance in literature.