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Reading Frantz Fanon: Two Plays on Melancholy and Freedom

Hyun Joo Lee 1

1이화여자대학교 이화인문과학원

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This essay analyzes Frantz Fanon’s two plays, The Drowning Eye (L’Oeil se noie) and Parallel Hands (Les Mains parallèles), collected in the recently published book, Alienation and Freedom (2018). Both plays were written in 1949, and these plays predate Fanon’s other texts. Though Fanon is well known for his critique of colonial structures of oppression in texts, such as Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth, his plays do not explicitly mention race and politics. The Drowning Eye and Parallel Hands present how characters who have lost their attachment to tradition, such as name, beliefs, and language, sustain themselves in relation to privation and attempt to make a change without being dominated by the death drive. The mood of melancholy is essential for exploring this subject. The characters’ sense of loss resonates with Fanon’s comment on the phenomenological experience of embodying blackness in Black Skin, White Masks. At the same time, the characters’ tendency to vacillate between love and death drive and the enactment of the unknowable encourage us to read into Fanon’s thought beyond the dialectic of exclusion and inclusion. If we are attentive to Fanon’s aspiration for the anti-colonial world and consciousness of difference when reading his plays, we come to understand that the feelings of alienation and melancholy can free us from our former selves.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.