There has rarely been a writer and thinker who saw his writing as more tied to his age than Jean-Paul Sartre. His notion of committed literature argued that writing and thought are anchored first and foremost in their “situation,” the period and context in which they are first produced, disseminated and discussed. One writes for one’s era, he maintained; that is when a piece of writing has its greatest impact. Almost forty years after his death, there is some irony in the fact that Sartre’s writings and thought continue to be invoked in so many different contexts far removed from their immediate cultural moment and situation. And this despite the legion of detractors on both sides of the Atlantic for whom the end of the Berlin wall and Soviet Russia sealed Sartre’s failed legacy and any possibility of his continued relevance.
John Ireland and Constance Mui
John Ireland and Constance Mui
We are thrilled, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Sartre Studies International, to publish for the first time in English (thanks to Dennis Gilbert’s initiative and perseverance) two interviews on theater given by Sartre to Russia’s oldest continually running theater journal, Teatr, whose first issues date from the 1930s. Six years apart, these two interviews give us the flavor of Sartre addressing a Soviet audience, in early 1956, just before Russian tanks rolled into Hungary and then again in early 1962, as France negotiated its exit out of the disastrous Algerian War. While these interviews intersect at times with remarks made by Sartre in interviews and lectures during the same period in France (the need for theater to become a truly popular forum, the importance of Brecht as a model of politically engaged theater, etc.), the tone of the two interviews (the first in particular) is different, as Sartre seeks to connect with a socialist audience. These interviews also break new ground. Discussing contemporary playwrights, Sartre demonstrates, for example, his familiarity with Kateb Yacine and Algerian theater. More unexpectedly, addressing Russian readers, Sartre offers a much more positive assessment of Jean Vilar’s Théâtre National Populaire than he ever formulated in France. In short, beyond their content, these interviews help us appreciate even more the importance of the situation shaping Sartre’s pronouncements at any given moment.
Constance L. Mui
To many Sartreans, these accounts of the common physical and psychological responses to trauma reflect a familiar view of the self. For Sartre, the self is not an unchanging, underlying essence that guarantees personal identity over time; rather, it is an ongoing project that is founded on our being-in-the-world as embodied freedom, on our concrete relations with others, and, I would add, on our emotions. It thus appears that feminist writings on the effects of sexual trauma could benefit greatly from a careful reading or rereading of Sartrean ontology, even though Sartre himself has not, to my knowledge, related any aspect of his philosophy specifically to the problem of trauma. With this in mind, this essay attempts to work out, within the broader Sartrean ontological framework, a preliminary outline of a phenomenology of rape trauma, one that is based on a feminist consideration of Sartre's distinct but intertwined theories of freedom, embodiment, and the emotions. In this endeavor, an important point I hope to bring out is that even though Sartre has at best provided a rough sketch for his theory of the emotions, we can nevertheless glean from that sketch valuable insights that can both inform and illuminate our understanding of the effects of trauma.
Constance Mui, Kevin Gray, John Foran and David Ross Fryer
Thomas Martin, Oppression and the Human Condition: An Introduction to Sartrean Existentialism Review by Constance Mui
Ian H. Birchall, Sartre against Stalinism Review by Kevin Gray
Ronald Aronson, Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It
David A. Sprintzen and Adrian van den Hoven, editors and translators, Sartre and Camus: A Historic Confrontation Reviews by John Foran
Nik Farrell Fox, The New Sartre: Explorations in Postmodernism Review by David Ross Fryer