29 September 2008

A Space of her Own: Sexuality, Silence, and Negotiating Spaces in Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

A Feminist Reading

This is my MA thesis abstract. If you have nothing to do and want to spend a long night under a blanket, let me know and I will send you a copy of the whole thesis.

The present research examines themes of women’s sexuality, silence, power and negotiation of spaces in Homer’s The Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. The study employs an open reading of the texts alongside feminist perspectives to offer new, alternative meanings that are hidden within the folds of the dominant, patriarchal discourse. As meaning depends mainly on the lens through which a text is read, the strategies utilized in this research enable fluid shifts in meaning because they open up the texts to alternative possible interpretations. Maneuvering within the dominant discourse and reading between the lines uncovers a space within which women have to struggle in order to find their own private spheres and modes of being.
No research—to my knowledge—has engaged in a comparative study of the two literary works under consideration, despite a number of common elements. The thread connecting these works, and on which the arguments in this study are built, is the image of stone that is prominent in both works. In The Odyssey, Penelope is presented pausing near a pillar of stone a number of times, whereas in The Winter’s Tale, the queen Hermione is turned into a statue of stone at the end of the play. These two images are closely analyzed in relation to these women’s silence and marginalization, and they constitute a central point of reference in exploring the other themes.
A unique element of the present research is that it combines two contrasting approaches often utilized by feminist literary research. The first seeks to uncover the oppressive patriarchal mechanisms which act to marginalize and constrain women, while the second searches for openings in the text which enable an alternative, celebratory reading. In my research, I harness both of these strategies to offer broader possibilities of reading The Odyssey and The Winter’s Tale, paying attention to the possible ways in which these two varying readings can interact to offer broader and richer understandings of the themes dealt with.

(c) All rights reserved to Khulud Khamis.

9 July 2008

A typical class in civil studies

Teacher: Today is Independence Day. What are we celebrating?
Student A: The Jewish victory!
Teacher: Good. What else?
Student B: The expulsion of Palestinians from this land.
Student A: Yes, I heard of them. Palestinians.
Teacher: We used to be part of that people, but not anymore.
Student B: So who are we?
Teacher: To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure. Some claim we are Israelis. Others say we are traitors.
Student C: What about the Nakba?
Teacher: Shut your mouth! Can you find anything about it in our books?
Student C: No, but not everything is written in history books.
Teacher: Everything you need to know, everything the Master wants you to know, is written down for you in these books. You must not know anything else!
Student B: So was there a Nakba?
Teacher: I thought I made it clear to you! Repeat after me: There was no Nakba. There was no Nakba!
Class: There was no Nakba.
Teacher: We suffer from an inherent social inferiority.
Class: We suffer from an inherent social inferiority.
Teacher: Only our Master has the right to educate us. We are not able to write our own history books, because we have no history. We have to learn the history of the Master, because we live under his mercy. Tomorrow we will continue and we will read some of the poems of the great national poet.
Student A: Wow! Will we really be studying national poets?
Teacher: Of course, it’s in the curriculum.
Student A: I hope it will be Gassan Kanafany.
Teacher: What did you say?! I told you, a national poet!
Student A: I thought Kanafany was a national poet.
Teacher: He was a traitor! For tomorrow, please read the first two poems by Hayyim Nahman Bialik in your literature books, and we will discuss the historical events related to his poems so you have a better understanding of the history of the Master.
Student C to student A: Kanafany, what a weird name. Bialik sound much more poetic.
Student A: Yeah, I guess so… I hope he is at least as good as Kanafany.

(c) All rights reserved for Khulud Khamis (2008)

16 June 2008

It was not Love then

It was not love then.
And it is not love now.
Tayseer used to walk in me.
Now I walk inside Ziyad's body.
I don't know how I walk his body.
But I do remember the way Tayseer used to walk my body.
I would feel him in there, pacing slowly back and forth, up and down, never for a moment resting. The worst of it would come at night, when he would stealthily move into my brain and walk there, not letting me sleep.

I was his well of sadness his secret place - his only place - where he could cry. But he could never really be with me, not Tayseer. He said I made him think too much.
I made him dip into his deepest desires. I made him yearn to be something more than he was. I made him want to break from his prison. The prison of his own being. It took me two years to realize that I was only a body for him. A body he could spend himself inside of... a body to empty his anger inside of...
With me, he could not pretend to be himself. He was forced to be somebody other than himself. With me, he became his real, hidden self. The self he dared not admit to anyone else... not even to himself.

Love is a strange being. It is pure, it is wicked, it is dark and it is voluptous. It is seductive and it is deadly. It makes you scream and it makes you cry. It makes you sad, sometimes mad. It never makes you happy. It leaves you forever thirsty and hungry.
It leaves you spent. It leaves you exhausted. It leaves you dry. And it leaves you empty, never full.

And when love has said her last words, her words of nighttime dreams, you are left with memories alone. Memories that gnaw at your mind... your sanity. Adding in to your sanity, making it insanity. Twisting your soul, wringing it from its breath. But the memories remain, screaming at night, waking you into a dream and then back to another dream and reality and dream again... was it real was it a dream is it night is it time to wake up yet from reality into dream... into sanity into insanity... can I erase time or will time erase time or will memories erase time or will time erase memories... or will he just come and knock on my door and demand his erased memories back...

I was willing to give up my freedom for your love, Tayseer, but now I am left with no love, and still I am a prisoner. A prisoner of time of memories of the desire to erase... to erase what... to erase you... to erase time to erase memories to erase love I don't know anymore...

I was too much for you yet not enough.
Did that scare you? Is that why you attacked me and demanded everything to be back the way it used to be before my madness? Do you know you can never demand of a river to flow in the same place it did the year before? It is against nature! You cannot go back as if there were no madness. This is against nature.

Your love was a prison, so why did I embrace it as if it were freedom? I lost myself inside you, Tayseer. give meb back my time my memories my love my pain my tears my body my power my strength give me back my weakness my sparkle my passion give me back my fire... it is against nature. You cannot give back fire that was raging and raving so ravenously so savagely... with your body tangled inside my body my mind thinking your thoughts my body feeling your heat your fire your weakness your pain the desert of your emotions. Cold!

Ziyad... Ziyad is weak. Ziyad is strong. Ziyad is weak is strong.
Ziyad is my angel. He carries my weaknesses for me so I can be strong. He contains all my pain within his being, emracing it lest it fainlty drains out... he creates unknown dimensions of sadness for me to walk through. He takes away my madness and hides it, then gives it back, drop by drop.

Tayseer let me carry my pain and my sadness, and out of the pain and sadness my writing was born.

Ziyad carries my pain and my sadness so I can be free to write.

I can write out of pain and sadness and I can write without pain and sadness. When is my writing better, calmer, richer? Was it better with Tayseer or is it better, richer in its texture and taste with Ziyad? Sometimes I long for Tayseer so I can write out of pain out of sadness out of the violet violent fury the rage the madness. But writing with Ziyad is calmer is soothing is warm is like the sea in the summer is full of passion devotion is on fire...

Tayseer filled my world my body Ziyad turned my body into an olive tree. A dry ancient olive tree. But this dry ancient olive tree bears dark green big round rich olives. Olives that are bitter to the mouth, but this is home! Ziyad is my home my sacred temple my land my earth my home, my home! It is good to be a dry ancient olive tree, because you know you will live to be two hundred three hundred a thousand years old, and you will bear olives every year and be a mother every time. all over again, be a mother every time for the first time. The mother of all olive children. Make dark thick rich olive oil that is almost black green that is life green that is my writing - life.

Planted four thousand years ago before Him and then two thousand more. Older than in any other land, with more knots decorating my trunk than in Ancient Greece.

Tayseer was the Haifa bay I was a drop of water a grain of dry sand longing to be saturated to be filled with his water his tide his power his force I was helpless unresisting longing desiring. Ziyad is my field my land under which my roots grow tangled up with mud. I stand stable resisting the winds of the winter my branches ancient dry my leaves tiny my fruit the bitter olive. I bear fruit without being watered. A strong olive tree. An ancient olive tree. Mother.

In Tayseer I was lost with Ziyad I am the origin of all angels of all mothers. Of love. Tayseer was my beginning my birth was my creatin was my morning. Ziyad is my warm evening my life my growth.

Ziyad will make a goddess of me worship my oil my sacred fruit.

(c) all rights reserved to Khulud Khamis (2008)

12 June 2008

A Heart from Jenin

Ahmad El Khatib was only 12 years old when shot dead by the Israeli "Defence Forces." He was playing with a plastic gun and they thought he was a "terrorist."

His parents, Abla and Ismael El Khatib, decided to fight back with the most human weapon there could ever be - to donate little Ahmad's organs (including his heart) to children citizens of Israel.

Six children received Ahmad's organs. One didn't make it out of the operation room, and two decided to remain anonymous. The rest are a Bedouin boy from the Negev desert, a Druze girl from the Galilee, and a religious Jewish girl from Jerusalem. Ismael regularly visits the two Arab families, and he sees in these young children the life of Ahmad. To him, part of Ahmad is still alive.

The emotional story is told in the documentary film A Heart from Jenin, which was screened in Haifa in May. After the screening of the film, there was an opportunity for the audience to engage in a discussion with the Ismael and the film director, Marcus.

A man got up, introduced himself as a physician, and began his colonial monologue:
"We - the Arabs of the 'inside' - have great power. We can help you. We have a lot of influence in hospitals. If you just come to us, and ask us for help, we will help you."

This discourse of power, the strong 'us' coming to save the weak 'you' is an emulation of the very colonial discourse we are trying so hard to eradicate. It was difficult to sit there and listen to this complete blindness to reality, the ignorance of the mechanisms at work.

Every day, there are Palestinians passing through checkpoints from the West Bank to Israeli hospitals for medical procedures. Every day, there are women (some men, but mainly women), who give up hours of sleep, fill up their car tanks, and head to these checkpoints to drive children, women, men, and the elderly to the hospitals, stay there with them, and then back to the checkpoint.

The physician’s speech only showed how some of the Palestinians living inside Israel are ignorant of the reality. They prefer to watch the news and say “oh, poor Palestinians. I wish there was something I could do to help them.” And then, when the news is over, they continue on with their bourgeois lives. They make no effort whatsoever to get up, open the door and take some active steps.

I am positive that the physician who spoke at the film screening has done nothing since then.

When will we stop using the colonialist discourse? When will we start seeing that we have a responsibility towards ourselves?

(c) All rights reserved to Khulud Khamis (2008)

11 June 2008

Holding Back the Words... Holding Back on Writing

Holding back the words... holding back on writing. Waiting for as long as the heavy, humid, sticky air hovers over the Carmel.
Like holding back on smoking. Going out on the balcony with my kahwa, dropping into my chair, facing the Haifa bay, slowly dragging a menthol cigarette out of its green-white box, studying the filter, sipping from the finjan, putting the white thin cigarette between my dry lips, taking the yellow lighter, lighting it, watching the flame for a while as it flickers in the soft breeze, bringing it close to my lips, closer, until it almost kisses the cigarette... then the flame goes out. I put back the cigarette into its box, its home, but upside down, so that a brown eye stares out into the world, among all-white eyes... sipping again from the finjan, the kahwa is dark, thick like the air... Ziyad forgot to put sugar in the kahwa... no matter. It always tastes bitter, no matter how much sugar you add... getting up from the chair, heavily dragging my feet back to my study... waiting... waiting another hour until I light that brown-eyed cigarette... and then... and then... inhaling the sublime smoke into my lungs. Letting the drug spread inside my body, slowly... feeling the cool sensation spreading in my lungs, and into my mind... then comes the dizziness. The dizziness of a first cigarette the body has been longing for...

Holding back on words, holding back on writing, feeling the dizziness when I finally write, the words spilling out at a fascinating speed, racing the mind for the words, chasing the thoughts word... by word...

Holding back on words... is like - is like - a forgotten, lidded pot on the stove... the water starts boiling, slowly making the lid dance at first, and then, with a volcanic outburst, it spill over, putting out the flame, making a mess underneath... dancing bubbles of water... dancing words on the page...

Holding back on writing, holding back the words... dancing words, unearthly dizziness in the mind...

(c) all rights reserved to Khulud Khamis (2008)

10 June 2008

9 June 2008

One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star. Nietzsche
Do psychological motivation, rational causality, unity, integrity, and high purpose give way to postmodern fragment, play, deflation, and parody?
I'd really love to read what YOU think about this.

8 June 2008

The Mask

A mask on my face - a mud mask.
To make me - who?
Someone new?
Or maybe just a new... me?
I will find out when I wash it off.
Or maybe I will wash off a part of my self...
Terrifying thought...
I left the mask on for twelve minutes - the instructions said five to ten - just to be on the safe side.
I felt my face all shrivelled up.
Then I washed it off with lukewarm water - just like the instructions said.
And when I looked in the mirror,
It was still ME staring back at myself...
(c) all rights reserved to Khulud Khamis (2008)

Memories from Africa

Africa, the forgotten continent, the black continent, the one which we - Muzungus - have taken advantage of since the early days of civilization. We stole Africa's Majesty, stripped it to the bone and beyond, didn't leave a grain of sand untouched.
We just took, like hungry vultures, like the sea crashing upon the craggy shores on a stormy night - angry, wanting, conquering, never satisfied, not even when Africa is bleeding.
Africa has always been a mystery to me - a dream land of past and of colorful people, rich cultures, connected by an invisible thread to Mother Earth.
(to be continued...)
Petals of this child's soul -
Crushed with no mercy at all.
The sparks of this Child's eyes -
Darkened for the rest of days.
The sacred dance of this Flower's leaves -
Smothered from now until darkness.
Manacles of this Beast
Fury in the heart.
A moment of Rage,
A forever of Hatred.
(c) all rights reserved to Khulud Khamis (2008)

6 June 2008

Chains of thoughts - on a heavy string of rusty, hollowed metal - dragging on to no visible end...
(c) all rights reserved to Khulud Khamis (2008)
Words are but utterances...
Like the crispy falling leaves of a tree in autumn
Once they leave their boughs,
They lose all life, all essense, falling apart,
And they cease to exist...
(c) all rights reserved to Khulud Khamis