What is literary theory and why am I here sitting in a literary theory class?
“This is not a ‘tool box’ course, meant to show you how to use theory as a method for producing readings of texts” (page 1, Engl 372 syllabus) .That one sentence about viewing theory as something besides only a tool for talking about literature made me realize why I have always secretly avoided studying literary theory or talking about it during literature classes and in my papers. While hearing others talk about the theoretical aspects of different works of art and literary pieces, I have not yet been able to fully utilize ‘theory’ in order to explain my thoughts about a poem, a story or an art work.
It is ironic that as a Comparative Literature major I have always been cautious of talking about ‘literary theory’. During conversations and discussions about various works of literature I am often hesitant sharing my thoughts on the theoretical aspects of the piece. Even though literary theory has been a part of my academic experience, it has always been a marginal aspect of my Oberlin classes. As a result, I think, I have not yet developed an active understanding of different schools of what we know as literary theory.
During my study abroad in Buenos Aires, I took two literature classes at University of Buenos Aires. The structure of my literature classes were in a way not comparable to my literature classes in Oberlin. I remember how confused I was when at first, I took a look at the syllabus for my literature class at UBA. The readings for each session were always divided into two separate sections of ‘literature’ and ‘literary theory’. Students would come to class having read the assigned theoretical texts in addition to the literary work of the day. Most of them seemed very comfortable talking about the theoretical aspect of the texts. They would always almost immediately classify the different pieces of literature that we were reading. It was as if everyone was supposed to wear their ‘theory’ glasses before entering these literature classes. This had made me think that as a Comparative Literature major I in fact, know nothing about literature and how to think about literary pieces.
Although I found these literature classes at UBA restricting in terms of thinking about the concept of ‘literature’ and what it could mean to individuals, I decided that I need to work on my knowledge of literary theory and that is mainly why I registered for this class while I was still in Argentina.
Kucinich Couple Continues the Fight for Peace
By Ariela Zamcheck
On a gloomy Tuesday afternoon, Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of current Ohio congressman and former Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich, set out from Oberlin College on a 10-day, 60-mile walking tour of the greater Cleveland area.
At a small gathering in the Adam Joseph Lewis Center, she spoke of the motivating factors behind this “Peace Walk,” in which she plans to link the students and communities she encounters through a “combined movement of strength to advocate for environment sustainability, peace and prosperity.” The Peace Walk is Elizabeth Kucinich’s initiative to create an atmosphere of positive cross-cultural and interfaith interaction between college campuses and communities within the Greater Cleveland area.
She also hopes to garner support for a cabinet-level Department of Peace.
College senior Azadeh Pourzand, campus coordinator of the Student Peace Alliance, organized the Tuesday event and logistical details of Elizabeth’s walk. The Student Peace Alliance is a chapter of the larger nationwide group, the Peace Alliance, which was in partnership with Kucinich in organizing this march.
The Peace Alliance is an activist organization that promotes the creation of departments of peace and peace ministries in the United States and abroad. It was founded in April 2003, in conjunction with Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaign and with the authorship of the Department of Peace legislation.
According to Pourzand, the Student Peace Alliance was recently initiated in order to “raise awareness on campus and create a space for students in local and urban communities to promote peace.” The group will hold its first meeting in the second week of October.
Elizabeth Kucinich said that a Department of Peace “would address violence at the local level,” dealing with issues such as domestic abuse and gang violence. She added that it would also address the international arena and would “look at threats to stability before [the instability] reaches the level of war.”
According to Kucinich, her husband began writing legislation for a Department of Peace two months prior to Sept. 11, 2001. The proposal is currently being considered in both houses of Congress. There are currently 75 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.
Her walk was partly inspired by a recent trip she took to the Middle East with her husband. While visiting mass gravesites in heavily damaged villages such as Qana in Southern Lebanon, she and her husband were “blown away by the compassion extended to [them] by relatives of bomb victims.”
“People painted as so evil and militant expressed so much love,” she said.
As the two of them traveled through Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, they were able to speak to local citizens and “get a feel for what humanity was thinking devoid of politics.” Such a local approach, she felt, could be gained from a ground-level journey around Cleveland.
At the Tuesday gathering, Elizabeth Kucinich invited every audience member to share a recent positive experience, a time of great courage or a moment when he or she felt the closest connection to humanity.
At her prompting, the mood seemed to be more that of an intimate discussion than an anonymous lecture. Elizabeth Kucinich plans to use similar techniques throughout the whole of her walk and also on her blog, called the “9-10 forum,” which explores how Americans’ aspirations and experiences have changed since 9/11. The blog was created to launch a national dialogue to reaffirm dreams dashed by the fear of terrorism, the current war and the tightening of political power that followed.
“9/11 marks two key events,” said Kucinich, “the attack on the World Trade Center, and Gandhi’s first non-violent resistance. We can take the avenue of peace or pursue a war on terror, in which we destroy our environment and our communities.”
She plans to continue on to Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, OH, and then walk back to Cleveland on Sept. 19. She will arrive in Cleveland on Sept. 21 and attend events at Case Western, Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College.
A few weeks ago my mother, Mehrangiz Kar, wrote an article about stoning to death in Iran. She received many different feedbacks for her article that was published in Farsi. Among those responses we found an astonishing letter from an anonymous person whose mother was stoned to death twenty six years ago. Since the strength of the words of this letter paralyzed my body and mind for a few minutes, I decided to quickly translate the text.
According to Article 83 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran, stoning to death has been declared a permissible punishment for a few different types of adultery.
I read your recent article about stoning to death.
Reading your article reminded me of the bleeding bruises in my heart once again.
You wrote about murdering by stoning?
Have you ever held a bloody tool in your hands with which they have murdered your mother?
Have you ever touched the bloody skin and hair of your mother who has just been killed in a deep hole?
Have you ever followed the line of your mother’s blood in order to find her corpse thrown at the back of a truck?
Have you ever seen the fresh grave of that dearest being with a small piece of paper on which they have written her name wrapped around a small branch of tree?
Has anyone ever said a word about the children of the people who have been stoned to death?
I was fourteen and now I am forty.
To quote psychologists, I am one of the most fortunate people on this planet. I am fortunate, because despite this contempt in my life I have been able to continue my higher education and find myself a wife, children and a credible job without letting a single black spot remain in my life.
Do you even understand what it means to be the child of a person who has been shamefully stoned to death?
If Islamic clerics tell you that you could not win over the Islamic laws, they have, indeed told you the truth.
My mother used to tell me that she had become a sex-worker in order to feed us and to support us. She used to command us in being real men. She used to tell us to stand on our own feet and to never lose our hope in Ali (the first imam in shiasm).
Seriously who would want to sell her body, to sell her sex to anonymous men except for those women who have no other way of feeding their children?
If the husband knows how to make money, the wife and the mother of the family does not have to go and seek customers.
The economic situation needs to improve and single mothers or those mothers whose husbands do not have the ability or the willpower to work, should be able to seek help from the government.
You must establish an organization for supporting these women. It does not have to be a very rich organization in the beginning. No one has the right to condemn you for seeking financial support from different sources for these types of support organizations. Women like my mother who was eventually stoned to death need your help. They need the world’s help and support. Their forgotten families, too, need the world’s help. Help them!
Executing people for having not immoral actions is not going to have an effective result.
Tell me how many people have been executed and stoned to death since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in Iran…What is the result of all of this violence other than the fact that the evil is now truly dominating our society?
I never forget the last words of my mother’s Islamic judge:
“I issued a verdict for stoning this woman to death so that other individuals learn a lesson from her doomed fate and to avoid sins of such nature. To execute by shooting would not have made her suffer enough!”
Alas. Twenty six years ago my mother was stoned to death before my eyes. Has these women’s tragic fate helped our society improve? Statistics show that the rates of prostitution and corruption have increased exponentially.
God bless you!