Category Archives: Literature

On Safe Spaces

“So if someone tells us it is just to give to each what he is owed, and understands by this that a just man should harm his enemies and benefit his friends, the one who says it is not wise. I mean, what he says is not true. For it has become clear to us that it is never just to harm anyone.” Plato, Rep. I. 335e1-5

Amidst the Facebook maelstrom that accompanied the rather thoughtful and sharply precise letter sent by Dean Ellison of the University of Chicago, it was little-remarked that Plato’s Republic – the cornerstone of the Western political-philosophical tradition, a formative text for many undergraduates and professors here – begins with the violent establishment of an intellectual safe space. Indeed, Plato’s larger dialogical-philosophical project can be read as a thorough, culture-defining attempt to think through, to dramatise and vividly stage for his theatre-obsessed polis the simple question: what makes for a good conversation about the truth? What makes a conversation real? Where is it that conversations come to an end? Why do they do so? In what kind of spaces do we feel free to think? With what kinds of interlocutors can we feel out the good? What jokes, stories, poems, songs, and images do we tell each other as we try to describe to one another the indescribable truth? What compels us to talk to one another about the things that matter most? What compels us to keep silent?

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Filed under Culture, Literature, Politics, Uncategorized, US Politics

Virgin

Radhika Sanghani

The Berkeley Publishing Group

In Radhika Sanghani’s debut novel, Virgin, twenty-one year old Ellie Kostakis obsesses over finding a man to deflower her. Desperation drives her to endure the excruciating pain of a “Playboy Brazilian wax,” attempt several one-night stands, and even make out with a gay man. During her quest to lose her virginity, Ellie muses about the meaning of feminism and the sexual double standard for women. Unfortunately, the novel reads too much like a high-schooler’s whiny diary to manage any intriguing insights.

Ellie, however, isn’t a high schooler. She’s a senior at University College London, and the lone virgin in her social group—a fact she laments constantly. “The majority of university students have had sex, which I’m missing out on with every day that goes by, so for me to be like everyone else and be able to relate to my friends’ stories, I need to have sex and do the [chlamydia] test. It represents the dream,” she tells her best friend.

Sex—or the lack thereof—dominates Ellie’s every thought, action, and conversation. Everyone, from her mother to the beautician who gives her a Brazilian wax, seems fixated on Ellie’s lack of sexual experience. Of her two best friends, one is a self-proclaimed “slut,” and the other sleeps with the man Ellie is interested in…in Ellie’s bathtub. The world, filtered through her warped perspective, is hell-bent on rejecting her unless she can lose her v-card.

To Sanghani’s credit, however, the novel takes up some of the heated issues concerning sex in the twenty-first century, such as body image and the role of the porn industry. In the list of “Great Sexpectations” she compiles for her Vagina Blog (shortened to vlog), Ellie cites the following as modern-day expectations for women: no pubes, loud sex, wild sex, dirty talk, no condoms, blow jobs, and emotional detachment.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Culture, Literature