Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dreaming in French, Part V: Angela Davis

There's a new film out about Angela Davis, which reminds me to put up a handful of additional notes about her from reading Alice Kaplan's Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis (The University of Chicago Press, 2012). Besides, the book's due again after renewing it three times from the library already, so . . . here we go.

Angela Davis' (b. 1944) development as a thinker and activist embraces a lot of territory, including French and German philosophy. In addition, when imprisoned, she received moral and some support from engaged French philosophers, poets, and general fans.

Some of the people we encounter in Dreaming in French who connect to Angela Davis include a German boyfriend, Manfred Clemenz. "Intellectual passion is a kind of love, and the love she might have had for Manfred Clemenz would be hard to separate from her discovery of philosophy" (Kaplan, page 179).

In 1964, Davis began a thesis on Alain-Robbe Grillet (1922-2008), the novelist and scriptwriter for indie films such as L'Année dernière à Marienbad / Last Year at Marienbad (1961); he went on to direct his own films, such as Trans-Europ-Express (1966). Grillet wrote fiction and about fiction; he wrote about film, and he wrote about Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian director often discussed on this very website. In approaching Grillet's work, Angela Davis utilized both existentialist philosophy (freedom and responsibility) and the "new" anthropological structuralism. Kaplan notes of Davis' emerging thought: ". . . in addition to her attentiveness to structures and signs, she maintained a deep commitment to the idea of human freedom;" she paid close attention to both "conciousness and concept" (Kaplan, page 180).

To make a long story short, other influences on Davis included Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno, Albert Camus, the civil and human rights movements, the US-Vietnam War, Cuba, the Black Panthers and all the other interconnecting frisson of the 1960s. Some additional characters that come up: Ronald Reagan (as governor of California), Jean Genet, Jean Seberg, Jane Fonda and Yolande DuLuart (Angela Davis: Portrait of a Revolutionary, 1972). Even the Rolling Stones came to her support as needed with an eccentric song, "Sweet Black Angel" ("Exile on Main St.," 1972). 

More to say, but that's it for now except: Happy Earth Day!

Today's Rune: Protection.       


jodi said...

Erik-I SO want to be an american in Paris. Someday soon, I hope! Happy Earth Day to you, Dear!

Charles Gramlich said...

Back when I was working with the Cuban Refugees and hearing mostly Spanish every day I had a few dreams in Spanish.