BEIRUT: “I pictured myself and my friends once we’d passed the age of seventy, our hair grown white, reminiscing about these bitter days. How distressing for old age to become one of our highest aspirations!” expressed Ghada Samman in her account of the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut Nightmares.
With several events underway, the “Women and Writing” series, organized by the Women and Gender studies initiative at the American University of Beirut (AUB), involves lectures, group discussions, plays, city walks, and performances. The opening event titled "Women Writers in Wartime Beirut Reading Group" was held on the 10th of October at AUB.
The main aim of the reading groups is to explore the literary works of women during the Lebanese civil war. Ghada al-Samman, Jean Said Makdisi, and Evelyne Accad’s writings on the war were among the texts discussed throughout the session.
Held in collaboration with Alwaleed Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR), the series involves events centered on American Literature in addition to Beirut-based sessions.
“We tend to look at women’s literature as minor, but women are half of the population, they make up half of the story if not more,” Emilie Mansour Thomas, research associate at the Women and Gender studies initiative, told Annahar.
“They gave another narrative – another perspective that is just as important as men’s. Unfortunately we have to fight for it and show how relevant the stories are,” she added.
Mansour Thomas, who curated the first reading group and led the Beirut urbigraph walk that followed, explained how difficult it is to find copies of these stories since many are out of print.
“It’s important to publish these books. There isn’t enough exposure, which is why it’s important to continue studying and talking about these texts,” she told Annahar.
The Beirut-centered section of the series works on rediscovering women’s wartime literature, whose perspectives are often accorded less importance and viewed as secondary.
“The Women and Writing sessions came about because we wanted to talk about literature particularly in relation to women authors and women characters,” explained Kathryn Maud, professor at the Department of English studies at and co-director of the women and gender studies initiative at AUB.
“It was a really good opportunity for us to have these discussions about what women’s literature looks like, in America, for example, compared to in Lebanon,” added Maud.
The English studies professor highlighted the importance of the urbigraph walks: “we’re discussing these texts which could be seen as part of the past, but then we have the walks which are bringing them into the present.”
Mansour Thomas talked to Annahar about the link between the walks and the reading group sessions as well.
“We tend to look at the city as an urban space – the urban planning, the street, the transportation, and we have all these disciplines around it like geography and urban studies," she said.
“But when we talk about the city, it’s also everything that is said about it and every story that is told. It’s literature, cinema, art” Mansour Thomas told Annahar.
She further explained that the walks could give us a better understanding of where we live today, and allows us to imagine what the city could be, which prepares us for whatever is coming.
Welcome to “NAYA”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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