Abstract

The poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley acknowledged in an interview that her primary goal in poetry is to immortalize the suffering of her people. What exactly does she mean by that? What are the implications of remembering suffering, of keeping sorrows alive, especially in narratives? This article explores these questions in light of Primo Levi’s envisaged moral obligation to bear testimony to the victims of the Jewish holocaust, as well as Giorgio Agamben’s thoughts on that episode. I argue that ethics is central to Jabbeh Wesley’s poetics. The poet has a calling: the moral responsibility to bear testimony to the dead and the dispossessed. I will discuss Jabbeh Wesley’s poems as both a tribute to the dead and as an appeal to the living to change their lives. To situate my discussions of Jabbeh Wesley and Levi, I will revisit the ethical implications of Aristotle’s definition of tragedy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2161-427X
Print ISSN
1524-8429
Pages
pp. 282-306
Launched on MUSE
2014-09-11
Open Access
No
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