Penn State

Peter J. Butler - associate professor of bioengineering, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

Author: Azar Nafisi

Book Description:

It's not easy for a junior professor to find time to read. But if Azar Nafisi and the women in her book club can do it, so can you. Reading Lolita in Tehran is the memoirs of Azar Nafisi, an Iranian literature professor from Tehran, about her experiences during the government takeover of university functions in the 1980s. In one minor scene that illustrates a major theme of the book, Nafisi contrasts how her mother's religious freedom enabled her mother to enjoy her rich Islamic tradition, while the Ayatollah's forced adherence to Islam made Islamic tradition oppressive. In contrast, Nafisi's and her students' exploration of great ideas in literature illustrate how intellectual freedom (embodied in tenure), fosters progress and the enjoyment of ideas. The story is also an example of how literature (and by extension, art and music) can help junior professors escape threats to intellectual freedom—those imposed on them, and those self-imposed.


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