Location: Bowdoin / French / Activity / 2012 / William VanderWolk on a semester in Tunis

French

William VanderWolk on a semester in Tunis

Story posted October 20, 2011

Sheep at a mosque in Tunisia.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Professor of Modern Languages, Associate Dean for Faculty Development William VanderWolk writes:

I am spending this semester in Tunis on the North African coast of the Mediterranean. I have come here to study Albert Camus' notion of "Mediterranean thought," a philosophy of life and revolt that he opposes to Germanic thought. According to Camus, who was born and raised in Algeria, the Mediterranean, with its abundance of natural beauty, gives rise to a way of thinking that begins with the individual and his appreciation of nature. His defense of this world view leads to a revolt against injustice of any kind.


The best way for me to understand Camus' rather complex philosophy is to be immersed in the Mediterranean: its lifestyle, its people, and particularly the natural world so close to Camus' heart. Out of this natural beauty comes art, as the author interprets the world around him.

As I read and write this year, I try to imagine how my students and colleagues will profit from my work. I am writing a series of articles that I hope will become book chapters. The collection of essays will enrich the scholarship on Camus by bringing a direct and more personal point of view to the analyses. For my students, I am already formulating possible new courses.

None of this work would be possible without the time to pursue the research and the ability to live here on the Mediterranean. No library in the world could teach me about contemporary Arab-Christian relationships or the beauty of a Mediterranean sunset during the call for evening prayer. Tunisia has already enlivened my work by giving me the context in which Camus lived and worked. I will return to Bowdoin next year enlightened and refreshed.

No library in the world could teach me about contemporary Arab-Christian relationships or the beauty of a Mediterranean sunset during the call for evening prayer.
— William VanderWolk