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Mexican Mondays: Liberty and Detainment

November 11, 2019 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

Literature is a way to reclaim basic Human Rights, and certain poems even press charges. This talk discusses concepts of freedom, liberty and the deprivation of liberty in poetic texts by Octavio Paz, Bernardo Cortés Vicencio and Kifah Ali Deeb. While drawing on definitions of liberty by Hannah Arendt, the talk will focus on literary texts, which each conjure freedom, but at the same time point to very different notions of the term. In his poem called “Libertad bajo Palabra” (1949), Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz makes a case for the power of the word as a basic need for a democratic society of critical individuals. The poem “Los condenados a muerte” (2014) by Bernardo Cortés Vicencio was written as a contribution to the digital project “43 Poetas por Ayotzinapa”, and denounces a juridical void in a criminal state. Finally, Kifah Ali Deeb’s short story “In Solitary Confinement” (2017) deals with a complete lack of freedom as the Syrian author and activist writes about her experience in prison. However, Deeb’s poetic prose contains the strongest claim for the existential dimension of freedom of thought.

Dr. Catarina von Wedemeyer is a visiting research fellow at Columbia University, New York (2019-2021), and a postdoctoral research associate and faculty at Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena (2019-2022). From 2018 to 2019 she spent a year as Visiting Professor at Justus-Liebig-University, Gießen. From 2012 to 2019, Catarina was a research associate at Freie Universität Berlin’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, where she received her doctorate and published her first book titled “Open Dialectics. Poetic Form and Historical Thought in Octavio Paz” (De Gruyter 2019). Catarina was awarded several fellowships for research in Spain (Madrid, Segorbe), in Ankara, in Jerusalem (HUJI), in Mexico (UNAM, Colmex), and at Harvard University (2015, 2016). Her current project is dedicated to concepts of freedom and equality in hispanophone literatures from the 19th century.


November 11, 2019
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


802 International Affairs Building
420W 118th Street
New York, NY 10027 United States