My latest collection of blatherings, about Reading Lolita in Tehran, is up over at the Ashbrook main site. Delivered as part of a panel discussion on our summer reading assignment for freshmen, the talk focuses on what we can learn from the book about liberal education.
There are, of course, things that I couldnt say, given the setting and the time constraints. Nafisis book is, among other things, a cautionary tale about politicizing the university as well as about having reasonable expectations regarding political change. When she was a graduate student in the U.S., Nafisi clearly had some affinity for the leftist opposition to the Shah. What she comes to realize in Tehran is that, for intellectual freedom and for the university, theres little difference between Iranian Marxist-Leninists and the mullahs. For her (rightly or wrongly), totalitarianism is totalitarianism is totalitarianism.
And for those of you who are still dubious about the intellectual and political merits of this best-seller, take note of her acknowledgements, where she thanks "Paul" for introducing her to Persecution and the Art of Writing, as well as Hillel Fradkin and Bernard Lewis.