The Power of literature and Sustenance of Human Dignity in the 21st Century: a Study of Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero
The article deals with the treatment of human dignity in El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero. We begin with an extended methodological and conceptual exploration, asking what should be taken as primary in examining human dignity. Noting a particularly close relationship between contemporary uses of human dignity, international law, and human rights, this connection is treated as focal without assuming that it is definitive of the concept. The use of human dignity in public international law is a marker for understanding the moral, legal and political discourse of human dignity. A characteristic expression is found in the Preamble of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) whose rights “derive from the inherent dignity of the human person” and whose animating principle is “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family [as] the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This assertion and others like it form a common reference point in contemporary literature on human dignity. Importantly, this ‘inherent dignity’ represents a potential bridge between a number of different ideas and ideals, namely freedom, justice and peace. Literature has a unique capacity to touch the hearts and minds and engage readers in a way that is distinctly different from political or academic texts. This paper argues for a rich understanding of human dignity, an understanding that cannot be reduced to rigid principles. Cultural forms, imagination, and fantasy employed in Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero allow us to see this richness.