PART 2/2: How to Land Your Desired Job at Your College’s Career Fair

Katerina Zissouli Pt 2 How to Land Your Desired Job at Your College's Career Fair

As discussed in part one of two in this series, there is a lot of prep-work you should do before you go to a career fair. In part two of two, I discuss how to answer questions to ask companies and how to follow up with them afterwards.

2) What questions should I ask?

After you do what I explained in my answer to question one, come up with one to five questions to ask each company based on your research.  Put these questions in order of most important to least important so that if they run out of time in speaking with you at the fair, you will have at least received answers to your most pressing questions.

Here are three top questions to ask:

  1. May I have your contact information (i.e., first and last name, job title, company name, direct phone number, direct email address)?
  2. May  I send you a digital version of the resume and cover letter I provided you with today and ask you to forward my information to the person making the hiring decision?
  3. May I have the contact information (i.e., first and last name, job title, company name, direct phone number, direct email address) of the person who is making the hiring decision? Can I contact this person directly?

3) How do I follow up?

Call the person you spoke with at the fair.  Have a short conversation with them if they pick up.  Ask them how they are doing and if they enjoyed the career fair.  Show them you actually care about getting to know them and not just for their ability to give you an “in” for the position you want.

Remind them of your first and last name, where you go to college (as they probably visit a number of career fairs), your degree program, your anticipated graduation month and year, and what job position you seek.

If they don’t pick up, leave a message with this information in it.  Follow-up immediately after the call with an email, stating what you just spoke about on the phone or left in their voicemail.  Each week following that point of contact, reach out with a phone call and/or email to follow up on your professional documents you gave them.

Before you get off the call, whether they picked up or not, make sure to ask for an informational interview in which you can visit and ask them questions about the company.  If they say you can come in for an actual interview for the specific job you seek, all the better! Schedule an interview of any kind as soon as possible; who knows who else is trying to get the same job you want!

With the answers to these three questions in mind, you will be much more likely to land the job of your dreams right after college!


Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century: Constructions and De(con)structions

Katerina Zissouli Higher Education in the Twenty-first century-Constructions and Deconstructions

By: Katerina Zissouli, Ph.D.

There is a lot to be said regarding the commodification of higher education in the United States of America. In fact, the systematic, methodical obliteration of the liberal arts can serve as a testament of this commodification. It goes without saying that at this juncture, definitions would not serve any purpose whatsoever. That is to say, certain definitions are in danger of becoming absurd, of losing their meaning. However, such definitions may be necessary in light of so many misinterpretations. For instance, the liberal arts in higher education are presented in a way that renders them “distinct from professional and technical subjects” ( The problem comes in when certain groups of people with hidden agendas misunderstand or intentionally misinterpret the meaning behind liberal arts education. That is to say, confusing liberal arts education with the political meaning of the term “liberal” essentially harms higher education and by association students who enroll in colleges and universities across the country. In other words, the conservative view of liberal arts education as liberal education, that is to say encompassing leftist ideas is not only wrong, but also harmful for our young people and the future of this country. Unbeknownst to some, liberal arts education has nothing to do with Communist indoctrination. Yet it appears that nowadays eliminating the liberal arts and commodifying higher education is of the utmost importance on many campuses across the country. To that effect, Michael Berube talks about “The naysayers of the Liberal Arts and Sciences [who] eagerly await the commodification of higher education not because such institutions do not work, but because, for the most part, they do” (280). Berube goes on to say, “In fact, in the US there are a number of institutions that are considered financial ‘powerhouses’. Earning a degree in such institutions not only enhances, but also guarantees the future wages of their graduates” (280). In addition, if we consider the fact that higher education institutions, “Employ millions of faculty and staff across the country in what are some of the most stable workplaces in America: Penn State is not packing up and heading for Mexico or India anytime soon, and neither are Harvard, Johns Hopkins, or the University of Pittsburgh” (Berube 280). It is not difficult to infer the importance of such institutions to the country’s economy. Furthermore, these institutions support and sustain local economies as the towns that surround such campuses flourish “not despite things like tenure but because of them” (Berube 280). In other words, higher education institutions have been financially successful because they were able to hold commodification at bay (Berube 280).

Yet many groups of people who find liberal arts education dangerous, do not hesitate to view it as a business. To that effect, the projected message that young people receive regarding liberal arts education is that of time wasted in frivolous pursuits that are a luxury in a world where the bottom line is more important than values, morals, and ethics. In fact, quite often young people are told that liberal arts degrees are a joke, as the top priority among college students today is high paying jobs. In other words, “Money becomes the ‘exclusive denominator’, defining ‘prestige, excellence, competence, commitment to the public good’” (Engell & Dangerfield 69). That is to say, the message young people receive today through various main stream and social media outlets clearly states that if a college degree does not come with a high salary label, is not worth studying! Nevertheless, it is common knowledge that successful people (entrepreneurs, visionaries), people who changed the world as we know it, had a liberal arts education!

In this instance, however, we are looking at a more pressing problem that has to do with higher education in general and not just liberal arts education: the model of education as a business. In his seminal text, The Postmodern Condition, Jean-Francois Lyotard foretold over twenty years ago that those who supply knowledge and those who consume it are connected in a way that makes the relationship liable. The increasing liability of this relationship would replicate the relationship between commodity producers and commodity consumers. In other words, the power of such relationship lies between the product and its value (5). To that effect, higher education institutions either have begun or are in the process of selling knowledge at a price. According to Lyotard, the “use-value” of knowledge for its own sake is no more, for it must be produced and consumed in order to be “valorized in a new production.” In other words, an exchange of sorts must take place (5). As a result, we have come at a crossroads where the commodification of higher education has become reality.

Probing further, we discover that capitalism, according to Gilles Deleuze, “is not at all territorial, even in its beginnings: its power of deterritorialization consists in taking as its object, not the earth, but ‘materialized labor’, the commodity. From these standpoints, it could be said that capitalism develops an economic order that could do without the State. And in fact capitalism is not short on war cries against the State, not only in the name of the market, but by virtue of its superior deterritorialization” (236-237). Alarm bells are set off, according to Umberto Eco, regarding a number of situations around the world, not because reason is being attacked. Rather severing the connection between reason and truth, renders “bad reasons harmless” in the large scheme of things (126). As Eco warns us, “Crisis sells well” (126). Higher education, we are told, is in crisis. By severing the connection between reason and truth, politicians, business folks, and administrators have decided that this crisis must be addressed and fixed. As a result, and not by choice, higher education is deterritorialized. Frederic Jameson, in fact, claims, “The inherent nature of the product becomes insignificant… while the goal of production no longer lies in any specific market… or social and individual need, but rather in its transformation into that element which by definition has no content or territory and indeed no use-value as such, namely money… [and] takes its flight to other profitable ventures” (153). In the context of higher education, Jameson’s idea (borrowed from Deleuze and Guattari), is of great significance, as it endorses the drive to commodify higher education. Clearly, transforming knowledge into commodities and selling it for a profit is appealing to the various aforementioned constituencies.

However, before it is too late, those involved in higher education must examine the relationship between knowledge and ignorance very carefully. For instance, Lyotard explains that the binary opposition knowledge/ignorance is not at play here. Rather, it is about the distinction between “payment knowledge” and “investment knowledge” (6). Moreover, according to Lyotard, “Knowledge and power are two sides of the same question: who decides what knowledge is, and who knows what needs to be decided” (9)? All this inevitably leads us to consider “disruptive innovation,” as it applies to higher education. In a nutshell, disruptive innovations is “innovation-driven worth.” Yet, this “theory is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success” especially when it is applied to higher education (Christensen, Raynor & McDonald 44). Consequently, this theory, more often than not, has been misused and/or misinterpreted. Most people think that it has to do with any disruption in a business (Christensen, Raynor & McDonald 44). In accordance with the original model of disruptive innovation, however, “Different types of innovation require different strategic approaches” (Christensen, Raynor & McDonald 46). In other words, this approach does not work for every industry or business, never mind higher education. To that effect, David Noble explains, “At the expense of the original integrity of the educational process, instruction here has been transformed into a set of deliverable commodities, and the end [result] of education has become not self-knowledge but the making of money” (26). It is not difficult to figure out how this is possible. Technology has made all this easy: this model is delivered via online modalities. In other words, it is the drive to shift attention from the experience and interaction between students and faculty in the educational process, to the production and inventorying of an assortment of fragmented “course materials,” such as syllabi, lectures, lessons, and exams (“content”) has already taken place in a number of institutions across the country (Noble 26).

Hence, higher education institutions, their faculty, and students become producers and consumers of commodities. In this light, professors inevitably become “commodity producers and deliverers, subject to the familiar regime of commodity production in any other industry, and students become consumers of yet more commodities” (Noble 26).

In this light, the shift in the relationship of the student and faculty, which takes the form of a financial transaction, is apparent. However, even though it appears as if education is involved in this transaction, clearly it is not. Rather, students receive “an assemblage of pieces without the whole” (Noble 26).

Certainly, there are several implications to this model. For instance, this type of “educational” interaction does not only affect faculty, it also affects students (obviously). In fact, Noble states that this type of “education” has been given a name: EMOs (education maintenance organizations), which is the equivalent to HMOs (health maintenance organizations). In other words, Wall Street folks decided that since there is no additional moneys to be made in health care, education is next (26). This unfortunately brings us to funding and higher education. And indeed, it is a sad story (for more information, see Jenny Abamu, The Pew Charitable Trust, “Federal and state funding of higher education,” June 11, 2015, For instance, recent budget reductions indicate that by 2016, the higher education budget was reduced to $59-billion dollars. Currently, there is a proposed $9-billion-dollar reduction in higher education spending, which would eliminate teacher training programs and higher education financial assistance. In addition, various federal programs, used to provide services for disadvantaged students are to be cut by $192-million dollars (Federal TRIO, GEAR UP that fund Upward Bound, and other such programs). Federal work-study programs are also slated to be cut (Abamu). The implications of federal and state funding cuts are obvious. Public colleges and universities are funded by state and federal governments because they provide a valuable service to citizens and “local economies” (Merry).

All this and more, “Prompted the push for these institutions to make their own money, and this is the reason many decided to switch to a business model” (Merry). We have come to the point, in fact, where “the goal of higher education is no longer to create, transmit, or apply knowledge,” but to turn a profit (Engell & Dangerfield 1)!

The consequences of commodifying higher education are disastrous and will be even more so in the future. That is to say, students who are not academically prepared or cannot afford an ivy league education would be negatively affected by the cuts. As the divide between wealthy and disadvantaged students increases, so will the worth of a higher education degree.

This brings us to the commodification of knowledge. Certainly, in the age of technology, commodifying higher education is not impossible. But we must ask the following questions:

Is commodified knowledge really knowledge? And is the commodification of knowledge morally and socially correct (Wright)?

How can we convince a money-hungry society that happiness, self-fulfillment, truth, even perhaps enlightenment do not come with a price-tag? How can we insist that commodifying knowledge would be detrimental to human existence? How can we teach our young people that work ethic, morals, and values cannot be bought or exchanged? At this point, there are more questions than answers when it comes to commodification of higher education. However, one thing is certain: the consequences of this are going to be severe as it is going to affect the overall health of the global economy in the near future.

Works Cited

Abamu, Jenny. “Federal Budget Proposal Cuts Billions in Higher Education and K-12 School

Programs. EdSurge, 16 March 2017, Accessed 6 June 2017.

Berube, Michael. What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher

Education. W. W. Norton & Co, 2006.

Boundas, Constatin V., ed. The Deleuze Reader.  Columbia UP, 1993.

Christensen, Clayton, Michael E. Raynor, & Rory McDonald. “What is Disruptive Innovation?”

Harvard Business Review, Dec 2015, pp.  44-53, Accessed 7 June 2017.

Deleuze, Gilles & Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University

of Minnesota Press, 1996. LLC, 2016, Accessed 10 June 2017.

Eco, Umberto. Travels in Hyper-Reality. Translated by William Weaver, Harcourt Brace

Jovanovich, 1983.

Engell, James & Anthony Dangerfield. Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money. University

of Virginia Press, 2005.

“Federal and State Funding of Higher Education.” The Pew Charitable Trust, 11 June 2015, Accessed 5 June 2017.

Jameson, Frederic. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern. Verso, 1998.

Lyotard, Jean-François, Geoffrey Bennington & Brian Massumi. The Postmodern Condition: A

Report on Knowledge. University of Minnesota Press, 1984.

Merry, Stephanie. “Movie Review: Starving the Beast and Commodifying Higher Education.”

The Washington Post, 29 September 2016.

Noble, David F. “Technology and the Commodification of Higher Education.” Monthly Review,

March 2002, Accessed 1 June 2017.

Wright, Jeff. “Is Lyotard Right That the Commodification of Knowledge is Harmful?” Quora, 23

January 2015, Accessed 6 June 2017.

PART 1/2: How to Land Your Desired Job at Your College’s Career Fair

Katerina Zissouli Pt 1 How to Land Your Desired Job at Your College's Career Fair

Imagine you’re at a career fair.  Is this what you envision?

  • You ask companies to give you information about them.
  • You informally interview companies to see if they impress you.
  • You casually stroll around, looking for booths that entice your interest.

If so, you need to read this article. You could lose out on a perfect job for you if you don’t!

Career fairs are much more about you impressing companies than it is about you scoping out your options.  Think about it.  These fairs give you direct access to real people who work in companies you very well may love to work for after graduation.  It is often said that networking is one of the top ways to get an “in” at a company for which you wish to work.  People say this so often because it is true.  If you apply for a job online with no one to vouch for you in the company, you are simply a piece of paper (i.e., resume and/or cover letter) in their minds.  What’s better about a career fair is that professionals at the companies want you to impress them with why they should hire you, whereas at normal networking events, you may come off as pushy if you press them to consider you.

So, the pressure is on when you enter a career fair.

This may overwhelm you, but, the answer to making the most of these career fairs are to know the answers to the following three frequently asked questions before you go:

1) How do I prepare for a career fair?

Get a portfolio that has a notepad in it.  Make sure there are folders or pockets in the portfolio to store your resume and cover letter, which I will speak about in detail below, for each company you inquire within. If your professional documents start to bend or get folded by placing them in the folders or pockets, you need a different portfolio.  Get one that will not bend or damage your resume and cover letter.  Time Magazine shares some startling insights: “According to a study released… by TheLadders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing an individual resume.” So, looks matter!

Visit your college’s website to view the details about the career fair.  Usually, you will be able to see a list of all the vendors who will be in attendance.  Although this next step may be tedious, it’s more important to do this prior to the fair before anything else: Study each vendor, write a tailored resume to each company or interest, and customize a unique cover letter that speaks to your knowledge of the company, it’s products and services, and your experience that will help you fulfill a job opening they have.

You also want to make sure to carry a printed document with your notes about each company you wish to connect with at the fair.  Have two sections of three to five bullet points.  The first list of three to five bullet points should cover information specific to the company so that you put yourself ahead of other visitors to their vendor booths.  The second list of three to five bullet points should cover specific reasons why you should be hired to fill whatever position it is you seek at the company.

Come back soon for part two, which addresses the answers to, “What questions I should ask?” and, “How do I follow up?”


Links Between Environment & Student Success: Online Vs. Traditional Classes

Katerina Zissouli Online Classes

Technological advancements have paved a way for educational innovation. Professors now have more resources to utilize in order to heighten their lesson plans, while students have access to an array of online tools that encourage them to delve deeper into understanding.

However, with technological advancements also comes skepticism and controversy. Community colleges and universities are beginning to introduce more online classes into the curriculum, but, some educators wonder if those online classes are truly advantageous for students, or if they are hindering their learning.

While that cynicism comes from a place of concern for the quality of education that students are receiving, the U.S. Department of Education is being vocal about the benefits of an online education. Their studies have shown that students tend to perform better in an online setting when compared to traditional classrooms.

Educators, perhaps the question should not be, “Do online classes work?” but, instead, “How can online classes be used efficiently?”

Online Vs. Face-To-Face Instruction: Differences In Student Learning

If we understand anything about our students, it is that each one is unique. Every student comes from a different background; they live a distinct lifestyle, and they approach learning with varying strengths and weaknesses.

Traditional face-to-face instruction may benefit a young college student with little responsibility, but, what about students who need to hold  full-time jobs during the day or else risk being evicted from their home? Traditional classrooms may be necessary for a student who learns through constant communication with their educator and peers, but what about a more introverted student who can come to life when behind a computer screen?

Let’s not pit the two against each other. Instead, let’s break down what college students want when they approach their own education and what each option can provide:


Every student leads a distinct lifestyle, which means that they have different needs in order to be able to complete their education. Online education offers benefits to active adult learners who need to work full-time in order to support themselves and/or their families. While education is important, it doesn’t mean that people can put their lives on hold for it. Traditional classes are more beneficial to students who aren’t restricted by their lifestyles and have more time to dedicate to their educations.


No matter the degree type students seek, they need self-discipline in order to achieve their goals. Every student should be aware of his/her level of self-discipline. For students who need more structure, traditional classes should be their first choice. Students who are more organized and have a stronger grasp on time-management may fare better in online classes.

Peer Interaction

Traditional classes offer a more active, lively environment. For some, this helps to nurture a more profound learning process. For others, this could actually be distracting. Communication between professor and student still exists online; it is just more restricted. If students know that face-to-face interaction is instrumental in how they learn, especially for more challenging subjects, they ought to opt for a traditional classroom environment.

How Does One Become a Post-Secondary Teacher?

Katerina Zissouli Become a Post Secondary Teacher

Education is a popular industry for professionals, with more than 3.5 million teachers populating primary and secondary schools across the United States. In addition to this large population of kindergarten through twelfth-grade educators, America is home to approximately 1.31 million post-secondary teachers as of 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The current job market has so many spots open for instructors at the post-secondary level, because more Americans attend college today than ever before, with more than 20 million students attending college each semester, per data from 2016. Without education, we wouldn’t have doctors, lawyers, or–full circle, here–teachers, among gobs of other workers.

Post-secondary teaches instruct and advise older students and make more money, on average, than their secondary-school-teaching counterparts. In order to meet the needs of the marketplace each year as generations upon generations begin entering the job market, we need to have post-secondary teaches in order to have truly skilled, reliable, and educated professionals pioneering the latest and greatest in each industry.  So, how does one become a post-secondary teacher? To take on this noble goal, it’s important to recognize that there is no one way to do this.  What it does take, however, is a strict dedication to higher education and pursuit of truth and knowledge.  Here’s a peek into what that process could look like, however, for any curious wanderers, considering whether to assume this multi-faceted journey or not.

College Exams

In the United States, the two most popular entrance exams for post-secondary work are the American College Test (ACT) and Stanford Achievement Test (SAT). Students who take these exams are ranked against other students with scores that accurately predict performance at the post-secondary level. Taking one–or both, if you’re an overachiever–of these exams is the first step into becoming a one of these higher education professionals.

Undergraduate Study

Every single professor in the United States earned their position by first completing a Bachelor’s Degree program. Professors are not required to choose education for their Bachelor’s studies; however, most professors are passionate about a particular field of study and choose that field throughout their undergraduate, Master’s, and further fields of studies around that particular subject.

Graduate Admissions Tests

Institutions with graduate programs generally have rigorous admissions standards. As such, admissions committees highly value applicant’s’ performance on graduate admissions tests. There are a number of these tests, including the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) for aspiring doctors, the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) for people studying business, and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), used in a number of fields including science and medicine.

Master’s Programs

While a Master’s program is generally geared toward the applied practice of individual fields of study, it’s a stepping stone between a Bachelor’s and Doctoral degree program. Few fields traditionally allow students to skip master’s programs, although some do, allowing students to earn their Master’s and Doctoral degree in one fell swoop.

Doctoral Programs

Doctoral programs are more difficult to get into than Bachelor’s or Master’s programs for good reason; they generally require two years of coursework, and then, two to four years of completing dissertations. Dissertations are the final obstacle between student and teacher, oftentimes requiring 100+ pages of published research.

So, if you want to be a post-secondary teacher, survey every option.  Make pros and cons lists for each path you have a pique interest towards.  Then, take the next step towards academic bliss.

Myth and the Unconscious: The Allegory of the Cave Revisited

Katerina Zissouli Allegory of the Cave

The theory of knowledge, as it develops in the Republic, is offered by Plato in the form of an allegory: the “Allegory of the Cave” (Republic, Book VII, 514a-519b). Plato maintains that there are two levels of awareness and clearly distinguishes between the two: mere opinion and pure knowledge. Claims or assertions about the physical or visible world, including both common sense observations and scientific theories are only opinions. Some of these opinions may be well founded; some may be faulty. Neither, however, is to be considered pure knowledge. Only Reason which exists on higher levels of awareness yields pure knowledge; only Reason when suitably realized may result in undeniable intellectual insight. This is where the abiding universals lie and shape the eternal Forms that constitute the real world. Consequently, it is no coincidence that the “Allegory of the Cave” appears in the very work that suggests female equality. To be sure, in the unfolding of the allegory both “men and women are chained, and both must find their way into the light of true Being and true knowledge” (Bluestone, 1987, 146).

The “Allegory of the Cave” is also used to demonstrate Socrates’ Theory of Forms (Republic, Book VI, 509d-511e), in other words, the notion that the whole being is made up of a visible and an intelligible “realm” (not what we envisage as our world). As a result, the allegory delineates the process by which we are inspired to ascend from obscure knowledge (not well defined knowledge) of the visible realm through our senses, to the clearer knowledge of the intelligible realm through the use of reason (syllogismós).

Plato, in Book VII of the Republic, prompts the reader to imagine how life would be in a dark cave, where men and women have been confined since childhood, cut off from the outside world. Within the confines of this cave, men and women are chained by the legs and neck in such way that they cannot see in any other direction but straight ahead. The only visual stimulus for the prisoners in the cave unfolds on a short wall situated directly in front of them. On the wall that assumes the function of a screen, a projected “show” takes place; it is similar to a puppet show or shadow theater. To achieve this, there are certain people in the background whose job is to cast certain images on the wall of the cave that appear to the prisoners in the form of shadows. This is accomplished as a result of a fire burning in the back of the cave that the prisoners are not able to see. This, in turn, underscores the effect of the dark shadows on the wall. At this point, Plato prompts his readers to imagine that this is all the men and women, who are the prisoners and inhabitants of the cave, understand and experience as reality. They know nothing else (Republic, Book VII, 514a-b).

Suddenly, one of the prisoners is freed from the chains and forced, having been grabbed by the neck, to exit the cave and experience for the first time the outside world (what we consider the “real” world). At first, the prisoner is obviously confused; the prisoner, naturally, has to contend with a certain manifestation of disbelief. It is difficult, to say the least, for the ex-prisoner to accept that life inside the cave was an illusion and that the artificial images which were thought of as the real thing were, in fact, untrue and unreal. In other words, what appears to be true, is clearly not so (Republic, Book VII, 515c-d).

It is not surprising that Plato’s ex-prisoner returns to the cave and tries to enlighten the rest of the prisoners by making them familiar with his newly acquired knowledge pertaining to the “real” world outside of the cave. Certainly, this jeopardizes the ex-prisoner’s security and may even put her life in danger (Republic, Book VII, 517a). The unconscious can work wonders here. This is precisely because the people in the cave have not previously been introduced to the Theory of Forms. As a result, they have a skewed interpretation of reality which is based only on their personal observations. For instance, suppose that one of the shadows passing in front of the prisoners is that of a scroll. If the prisoners were allowed to communicate, one might say to another, “I see a scroll marching in front of me.” The question is, however, does she see a scroll or an image of a scroll as it appears in its shadowy form? Regardless of the answer, she did use the word scroll. Shedding light on the reason she used the word scroll would simplify to a certain extent the Theory of Forms.

The explanation lies in Book VII of the Republic. In section 515b, Socrates raises a valid question that dissects the Theory of Forms as related to the “Allegory of the Cave.” Thus Socrates inquires, “If they [prisoners] could converse with each other, do you not think that they would consider that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them?” Hence if a prisoner says, “That is a scroll,” she thinks that the word “scroll” refers to the very thing appearing directly ahead of her. Obviously, what Plato attempts to establish here is that the prisoner will be wrong in assuming this because she is looking at the mere shadow of the item. The prisoner cannot see the real referent of the word “scroll.” In order to see it, she must turn to face the item itself, and that is not possible. According to Plato, and various linguists, general terms in language models are not names (signifiers) of the physical objects (signified) that we see. They are actually names of things that we cannot see, things that we can only grasp with the mind, hence the arbitrary nature of assigning names to items whether animate or inanimate. (Let us consider the word dog, for example. What is this dog quality or dogness incorporated in the word dog that gives its name to the four-legged creature?)

Consequently, in both Plato and Aristotle, mimesis (The imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world, especially human actions, in literature and art) is the relationship between reality and representation. Aristotle, on the one hand, conveys the positive notion of mimesis, whereas Plato, on the other hand, conveys the negative notion of mimesis. In fact, Serena Anderlini-Onofrio explains,

Plato established an essentialist, negative notion of mimesis which presupposes that universals pre-exist particulars (the general precedes the specific, as we moderns would say). For Plato, cultural endeavors that imitate what is sensible were copies; hence they were one more step removed from perennial essences than the sensible world. Therefore, for Plato, mimesis, which is the art of making likeness of the objects that nature offers for observation, only threatens the purity of the perennial essences–the immutable ideas of which the shadows in the cave are a mere reflection. (1999, 160)

As a result, if and when the prisoners are released, after much pain and resistance, they are able to turn their heads and see the real objects. Socrates creates an analogy based on the prisoners’ newly acquired ability to turn their heads and see the originators of the shadows: this action simply enables them to grasp the Theory of Forms with their minds. To put it in contemporary terms, we may acquire conceptual ideas because of our perceptual experience of physical objects, but we would be mistaken if we would think that the concepts we grasp are on the same level as the things we recognize.

Yet there is an incongruity when attempting to apply Feminist Literary Theory to the “Allegory of the Cave.” That is because many Feminist Literary Theorists conclude that Plato uses the “Allegory of the Cave” as a metaphor for the womb. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, for one thing, in their acclaimed book, The Madwoman in the Attic, maintain that Plato’s cave is “a female place, a womb-shaped enclosure, a house of earth, secret and often sacred” (1979, 93). “To this shrine,” they continue, “the initiate comes to hear the voices of darkness, the wisdom of inwardness” (1979, 93). They go on to say, “The womb-shaped cave is also the place of female power, the umbilicus mundi, one of the great antechambers of the mysteries of transformation and that women trapped in the cave might seem to have metaphorical access to the dark knowledge buried in there” (1979, 95).

Additionally, Luce Irigaray, in her book, Speculum of the Other Woman, also prompts her reader to look at the “Allegory of the Cave” as “a metaphor of inner space, of the den, the womb or hystera . . .” (1985, 243). She goes on to admit, however, that to look at it as such is “strictly speaking, impossible” (1985, 243). She claims that all the words used by Plato to describe and identify the cave can be seen in the light of the word hystera. In other words, she declares that the cave, where men (she insists that the prisoners are men), with unspecified sex, live, is shaped like a cave or a womb (1987, 243). However, the noun anthropos, in Greek does not refer to “man, sex unspecified” as Irigaray would like us to believe. The word actually means neither man nor woman, but rather human being. Yet, Irigaray goes on to say,

The entrance to the cave takes the form of a long passage, corridor, neck, conduit, leading upward, toward the light or the sight of day, and the whole of the cave is oriented in relation to this opening. Upward–this notation indicates from the very start that the Platonic cave functions as an attempt to give an orientation to the reproduction and representation of something that is always already there in the den. The orientation functions by turning everything over, by reversing, and by pivoting around axes of symmetry. From high to low, from low to high, from back to front, from anterior to opposite, but in all cases from a point of view in front of or behind something in this cave, situated in the back. Symmetry plays a decisive part here–as projection, reflection, inversion, retroversion–and you will always already have lost your bearings as soon as you set foot in the cave; it will turn your head, set you walking on your hands, though Socrates never breathes a word about the whole mystification, of course. This theatrical trick is unavoidable if you are to enter into the functioning of representation. (1985, 244)

Irigaray emphasizes that the most important aspect of Plato’s allegory has to do with the passage from the cave upward as a “phallic progression” (1985, 247). She claims that the “neck, passage, conduit, that has been obliterated and forgotten, can be nothing but the one, the same, penis. Simply turned inside out . . .” (1985, 248). Note that the occupants of the cave are “always already,” to borrow Irigaray’s term, men. After she goes on to say that the function of the cave is a copy of a copy, she concludes that the entire Socratic dialectic is contained in the following idea: “Nothing can be named as ‘beings’ except those same things which all the same men see in the same way in a setup that does not allow them to see other things and which they will designate by the same names, on the basis of the conversation between them” (1985, 263). This idea is overreaching, especially if it were held up to the light of the former analysis based on the Platonic idea of the “Allegory of the Cave.”

There is something to be said, however, about Irigaray’s insistence that the occupants of the cave are male, “sex unknown,” for she claims that inevitably they must be linked to the mother. “It is only after resistance and pain that the man be set on his feet in the cave and will begin to walk around it,” Irigaray warns us (1985, 258). On the one hand, one cannot help but wonder what happened to women in Irigaray’s cave; on the other hand, it doesn’t come as a surprise that she likens the coming out of the cave to the birthing process. According to her, when the man is, finally, out of the cave, he symbolically exits the womb. Perhaps what Irigaray is trying to say may be that women simply are the cave. Although Plato clearly explains that the ex-cave inhabitant returns to the cave, Irigaray believes that the ex-cave inhabitant’s departure is a one-way path with no return. Hence, the men will not be able to “turn back toward the mother” (1985, 258).

However, according to Irigaray, men will act “as if it were possible to turn the scene of the womb or at least its representation back/over. As one might turn a purse, or a pocket, or a string bag, or even a wallet inside out” (1985, 284). Clearly, these are negative connotations to daylight, unconcealment, and truth. That is to say, since Irigaray associates daylight, unconcealment, and truth with men, ideas traditionally positive and good become negative and, as a result, wrong. As far as Irigaray is concerned, this move is an “effective way to prevent anything from remaining concealed, buried, shrouded, to stop its hiding, lurking, staying under wraps, in reserve” (1985, 284). In order that one may learn the wisdom of the philosopher and be introduced to “views that are fairer, loftier, and more precise,” one must “cut off any remaining empirical relation with the womb” (Irigaray, 1985, 293). This will make men “orphans of a simple, pure–and Identical–Origin. At best, hybrids” (Irigaray, 1985, 293). Certainly, according to Irigaray, Plato espouses a misogynist, sexist idea, “[h]e who has never dwelled within the mother will always already have seen the light of day” (1985, 295).

However, according to Socrates, when certain truths are concealed, pure knowledge is suppressed and censorship is imposed. Philosophers do not flourish in such societies. After all, one cannot be a carpenter without hammer and nails. When all that human beings know comes to them in the form of a shadow theater, as impressions of “spoon-fed” knowledge on an imaginary wall, always concealed from the truth, how can they seek pure knowledge? Furthermore, even though some may find their way out of the cave because it may be increasingly difficult for them to live the lie, it is impossible to convince the rest of the cave occupants to “see the light.” As a result, the enlightened find themselves back in the cave trying, to their dismay, to convince the others that their lives are an illusion.

Simone De Beauvoir, on the other hand, terms the “Allegory of the Cave,” “The myth of the Androgynes(a man-woman, hermaphrodite)” (Liddell and Scott, 1987, 58). De Beauvoir claims that in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” “The organism of the male supposes that of the female. Man discovers woman in discovering his own sex, even if she is present neither in flesh and blood nor in imagery; and inversely it is in so far as she incarnates sexuality that woman is redoubtable” (1989, 161). Be that as it may, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” has nothing to do with sexuality. Yet when, De Beauvoir restricts woman to her sex, she limits and categorizes feminist notions of equity. Moreover, her attempt to reterritorialize the term woman without first taking it through the concept of deterritorialization results in stereotyping. It may be true that men fear women’s sexuality, but that has nothing to do with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Michel Foucault, in fact, maintains,

For a long time they tried to pin women to their sex. For centuries they were told: “You are nothing but your sex.” And this sex, doctors added, is fragile, almost always sick and always inducing illness. “You are man’s sickness.” And towards the 18th Century this ancient movement ran wild, ending in a pathologization of woman: the female body became a medical object par excellence. . . . (1988, 115)

Additionally, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is “[a]bout the seductiveness of appearances,” according to Susan Bordo and very befitting to today’s societal ideology. Bordo goes on to say,

For Plato, the artificial images cast on the wall of the cave are a metaphor for the world of sense perception. The illusion of the cave is not mistaking that the world–what we see, hear, taste, feel–for the Reality of enduring ideas, which can only be “seen” with the mind’s eye. For us, bedazzlement by created images is no metaphor; it is the actual condition of our lives. If we do not wish to remain prisoners of these images, we must recognize that they are not reality. But instead of moving closer to this recognition, we seem to be moving farther away from it, going deeper and deeper into the cave of illusion. (1997, 2)

Undeniably, the “Allegory of the Cave” has to do with human perception, and it is certainly not antifeminist propaganda. Reaching inward for truth and wisdom ought to be up to each and every human being. In fact, according to Plato, everyone has the capability to attain true knowledge regardless of his or her gender. Thus, through the use of the original texts, and perhaps even relying on authentic translations, one can easily decipher a deeper meaning in Plato’s words. Was it all in jest? We may never know. Be it as it may, the Platonic corpus indicates that women should be treated with respect and given the same opportunities as men based on their nature and not their gender. Clearly Plato, in his Republic, argues that women ought to gain membership in the philosopher-ruler class and be chosen based on ability (nature) and not gender (Book V, 458c-e). Additionally, women in Plato’s utopian polis may partake in what is considered traditionally male pursuits, such as education (music) and exercise (gymnastics), for he believes that there is an innate need in men and women to coexist happily, in a fortunate, prosperous (eudemon) city (Book V, 458d). After all, Plato manifestly proclaims: “Is there anything better for the city than to have the best possible man and women citizens” (Book V, 456e)? That is to say, knowing oneself and encouraging men and women to pursue that in which they are able to excel based on nature and not gender will positively contribute to a thriving, flourishing society.


Anderlini-Onofrio, Serena. 1999. “Is Feminist Realism Possible? A Theory
of Labial Eros and Mimesis.” Journal of Gender Studies 8 (July): 159-181

Bluestone, Natalie Harris. 1987. Women and the Ideal Society: Plato’s
Republic and Modern Myth of Gender. Amherst: The University of
Massachusetts Press.

Bordo, Susan. 1997. Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images
from Plato to OJ. Berkeley: University of California Press.

De Beauvoir, Simone. 1989. The Second Sex. Trans. H. M. Parshley. New
York: Vintage Books.

Foucault, Michel. 1988. Politics, Philosophy, Culture. Trans. Alan Sheridan.
New York: Routledge.

Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. 1979. The Madwoman in the Attic. New
Haven: Yale University Press.

Irigaray, Luce. 1985. Speculum of the Other Woman. Trans. Gillian C. Gill.
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott. 1987. A Lexicon–Abridged from
Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Plato. 1992. Politeia. Athens: Kaktos Publishers.

Defining the “F” in Feminist Criticism #2

Katerina Zissouli Defining the F in Feminist Criticism

In shedding light on traditional “patripower” beliefs, to borrow the term from Hattie Gossett (1988), one only has to look at Sartre’s sexist tendencies. In his essay, “We Write for Our Own Time,” Sartre unkindly argues, “But the writer makes books out of words, not out of his sorrows. If he wants to stop his wife from behaving badly, he should not write about her; he should beat her . . . (Sartre, 1970). These are but a few examples of the prevailing thought which has, in one way or another, widely influenced society on the matter of the essential worth of the “trivial” word, woman.

Is “Femininity” natural? Is “Femininity” simply “a game played by girls, a chain passed on by one woman to another. . . a ‘mirror’ which allows for the possibility of difference” (Frith, 1991)? Is it true that “What is feminine affirms” (Cixous, 1989)? Likewise, is it true that femininity is a cultural fabrication? Simone de Beauvoir maintains that one is not born woman; one becomes one. On the one hand, that which contains femininity has been classified as soft-spoken, passive, virtuous, agreeable, compliant. On the other hand, one who is feminine can also be treacherous, lying, weak, indecisive, dull, moody, vain, superficial, dim-witted. Clearly, most of the former epithets can be classified into binary oppositions with the latter categories. Women can be good and bad, desirable and appalling, wild and tame, weak and strong, and all at the same time. In other words, women are expected to be energetic, but not too dynamic; brash, but not arrogant; beautiful, but not narcissistic. Are all these labels biological traits? Hardly!

In addition, femininity has also been established as “lack,” “negativity,” “absence of meaning,” “irrationality,” “chaos,” “darkness,” in other words, as “non-being” (Moi, 1989). According to Existential Philosophy, “Being” is requisite to any and all other potentialities. Virginia Woolf’s fair, albeit, somewhat desperate act may find a following, after all. Woolf commands: plow forth and murder the feminine “angel” who occupies the optimum space in our minds, our houses, our souls (Woolf, 1966). Woolf conveys her own “criminal act” thus:

It was she who used to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her. You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her–you may not know what I mean by The Angel in the House. . . . She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draft she sat in it–in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all . . . she was pure. (Woolf, 1966)

Has “Feminism,” as some claim, corrupted women to the core? “Feminism.” Some women, even today, are apprehensive of the “bra-burning,” “women’s lib” ideas with which it has been labelled. Others refuse to associate with a term that encompasses such negative connotations. The term “Feminism” includes such disparaging ideas, as those of the ostentatious business woman who utterly neglects her family, especially her children; the seductress, who is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top; the manipulator, who uses whatever means to get her way; the activist, who fights for women’s rights just so that she can go against the system; and those who choose to associate only with other women so that they can take revenge on men. Feminism, for whatever reason, acquired Medusa-like qualities. After all, she was classified as a “woman” too.

“Female,” “Woman,” “Other.” “So what is the beef?” Germaine Greer asserts and questions in her essay, “The Stereotype.”

Maybe, I couldn’t make it. Maybe I don’t have a pretty smile, good teeth, nice tits, long legs, a cheeky arse, a sexy voice. Maybe I don’t know how to handle men and increase my market value, so that the rewards due to the feminine will accrue to me. Then again, maybe I’m sick of the masquerade. I’m sick of pretending eternal youth. I’m sick of peering at the world through false eyelashes, or everything I see is mixed with a shadow of bought hairs . . . I am sick of being a transvestite. I refuse to be a female impersonator. I am a woman, not a castrate. (Greer, 1983)

Some would classify this as radical feminist chatter. Others would fear the mere thought of it. What will happen when women come into power and identify with it? Will it create anxiety? Is it possible that women might even take revenge? Historically, this has not been substantiated. Nevertheless, it has been regarded as a possibility. What patripower fears is the possibility of an outcome as envisioned by Helene Cixous, who estimates, “When ‘The Repressed’ of their culture and their society come back, it is an explosive return, which is absolutely shattering, staggering, overturning, with a force never yet unleashed and equal to the most forbidding of suppressions” (1989).  She goes on to prophesy to the dismay of some, “For when the phallic period comes to an end, women will have been either annihilated or borne up to the highest and most violent incandescence” (Cixous, 1989).

In light of such great drive on the part of patripower to silence and suppress women, and in spite of their tremendous efforts, women have found a voice. This voice encompasses and contains the Other. At times, it may be cryptic, foreign, and indistinguishable by males. At times, it may be foreign even to those who are classified as Other. It could be non-conformist, distinct, and aloof. In a society consumed with categorizing and classifying, it would be forced to construct its own category.

Why look at women in literature? Is it because it encompasses endless possibilities? Is it because it makes up its own rules? Is it because it cannot be “enclosed within borders” (O’Grady, 1996)? It is because “Literature is a transnational country,” in which writers must be “border-crossers” and “outlaws” (O’Grady, 1996). A writer, and a female at that, must be a conglomerate (not a union), of unique and separate parts consisting of a multi-cultural, and multilingual self.  In turn, those parts swelling with creativity must come together in what we shall call the creative, imaginative, inventive womb.  And although many a man has appropriated this womb, this ability to give birth as the ultimate creation of literary imagination, they partake not in the birthing experience. Only women are given the gift of repeated conception and genesis of literary thought. This is the nexus where women’s power lies. In defying and ignoring patriarchal ideas and plowing forth by expressing themselves, women may find that others, especially men, need not regulate individuality and creativity. Coming to terms with self and artistic expression can only contribute to attaining self-knowledge deeply rooted in authenticity and truth.

Works Cited

Cixous, Helene. “Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways–Out/Forays,” In The Feminist

Reader: Essays in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism. Catherine

Belsey and Jane Moore, eds. Blackwell, 1989, pp. 101-116.

——. Laugh of the Medusa, “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Trans. Keith Cohen

and Paula Cohen. Signs 1, 1976, pp. 875-93.

Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Trans. J. Strachey. W.W. Norton, 1966.

Frith, Gill. “Transforming Features: Double Vision and the Female Reader.” 

New Formations 15, 1991, pp. 68-76.

Gossett, Hattie. Presenting…Sister Noblues. Firebrand Books, 1988.

Greer, Germaine. “The Stereotype.” In Philosophy of Woman. Mary Mahowald, ed.

Hackett, 1983, pp. 11-19.

Isenberg, Arnold. Aesthetics and the Theory of Criticism: Selected Essays of

Arnold Isenberg. University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Moi, Toril. “Feminist, Female, Feminine.” In The Feminist Reader: Essays in

Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism. Catherine Belsey and Jane

Moore, eds. Blackwell, 1989, pp. 117-132.

Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Walter Kaufmann.

Vintage Books, 1966.

Noddings, Nel. Women and Evil. University of California Press, 1989.

O’Grady,  Kathleen. “Guardian of Language: An Interview with Helene Cixous.” Women’s Education des Femmes 12, 1996, pp. 6-10.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. “We Write for Our Own Time,” In A Casebook on Existentialism.

William Spanos, ed. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970, pp. 133-139.

Stephen, J. K. “A Thought,” Cambridge University Literary Magazine, 1891, pp. 15-17.

Woolf, Virginia. “Professions for Women. ”Collected Essays, vol.2. Hogarth

Press, 1966.

Defining the “F” in Feminist Criticism #1

Katerina Zissouli Defining the F in Feminist Criticism

If all the harm that women have done

Were put in a bundle and rolled into one,

Earth would not hold it

The sky could not enfold it,

It could not be lighted nor warmed by the sun.

Such masses of evil

Would puzzle the devil

And keep him in fuel while Time’s wheels run.

But if all the harm that’s been done by men

Were doubled and doubled and doubled again,

And melted and fused into vapor and then

Were squared and raised to the power of ten,

There wouldn’t be nearly enough, not near

To keep a small girl for the tenth of a year. (Stephen, 1891)

It is well known that women throughout the ages have been treated as Other in a patriarchal society, which for the most part is persnickety and disparaging. Many philosophers, political and religious figures, and theorists have helped in perpetuating the stereotype. Nietzsche’s ideas may be a good place to set some examples in motion. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche claims,

Woman wants to become self-reliant–and for that reason she is beginning to enlighten men about “woman as such”: this is one of the worst developments of the general uglification of Europe. . . . Woe when “the eternally boring in woman”–she is rich in that!–is permitted to venture forth! . . . But she does not want truth: what is truth to woman? From the beginning, nothing has been more alien, repugnant, and hostile to woman than truth–her great art is the lie, her highest concern is mere appearance and beauty. . . . And is it not true that on the whole “woman” has so far been despised most by woman herself–and by no means by us?  (Nietzsche, 1966)

Later authors attest to the perpetuation of the same stereotype. Arnold Isenberg, for example, while commenting on some of Virginia Woolf’s ideas on the empowerment of women by means of writing, viciously attacks and dismisses her suggestions. He quotes Woolf, who in A Room of One’s Own, asserts: “Never mind whether you write like Keats. That’s not the idea. The main thing is that you put down what you see and feel” (Isenberg, 1973). With this, Isenberg supposes that Woolf grants license to women to produce bad writing. He goes on to say:

So reasons one of the best minds of our times, competent alike at writing and at judging. Is this dreadful, chaotic thinking really redeemed by the prose garnishes . . . Consider how extreme these phrases are: “Mean nothing.” “Most futile of occupations.” “Submit to the decrees.” “Most servile of attitudes.” “All that matters.” “Sacrifice a hair of the head.” “Abject treachery.” No, this hysterical prose cannot make up for any fault: it is itself in need of some virtue to balance it. I think I am aware of some of the good impulses behind bad writing. Virginia Woolf, when she started this passage, had just been prophesying. She had foretold a time when women, if given the chance, would become good writers. By a natural association of ideas she then found herself meditating the question, “Yes, but will they ever be as good as men?” (Isenberg, 1973)

In other words, regardless of women writers’ proven skill, and in spite of their acceptance by a good majority of the male writing establishment as successful writers, Isenberg still disputes their ability and creativity. Moreover, by comparing in an utterly sexist way women’s writing to that of men, he questions whether we can elevate female writing enough to compete with male writing. That is to say, he insists (and he is not the only one) that we must hold everything to a male microscope, saturated in male standards and beliefs. According to this view, all that is right, good, and accepted, excellent, brilliant, and accomplished is male produced.

If Nietzsche and Isenberg’s ideas do not make the case, perhaps one should take a look at Freud’s lectures on the subject of women and the castration complex:

The castration complex arises after they [girls] have learnt from the sight of the female genitals that the organs which they value so highly need not necessarily accompany the body. The castration complex of girls is also started by the sight of the genitals of the other sex. They at once notice the difference and, it must be admitted, its significance too. They feel seriously wronged, often declare that they want to “have something like it too,” and fall a victim to “envy of the penis.” (Freud, 1966)

Why does Freud assume that any girl, who either grows up around boys or not, would assign higher value to male genitalia? In whose mind a penis is significant, if not in the minds of males themselves? Clearly, penis envy is a male construct, and the castration complex has been assigned to the female identity because of the fear it has generated in the male psyche.

Works Cited

Cixous, Helene. “Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways–Out/Forays,” In The Feminist

Reader: Essays in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism. Catherine

Belsey and Jane Moore, eds. Blackwell, 1989, pp. 101-116.

——. Laugh of the Medusa, “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Trans. Keith Cohen

and Paula Cohen. Signs 1, 1976, pp. 875-93.

Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Trans. J. Strachey. W.W. Norton, 1966.

Frith, Gill. “Transforming Features: Double Vision and the Female Reader.” 

New Formations 15, 1991, pp. 68-76.

Gossett, Hattie. Presenting…Sister Noblues. Firebrand Books, 1988.

Greer, Germaine. “The Stereotype.” In Philosophy of Woman. Mary Mahowald, ed.

Hackett, 1983, pp. 11-19.

Isenberg, Arnold. Aesthetics and the Theory of Criticism: Selected Essays of

Arnold Isenberg. University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Moi, Toril. “Feminist, Female, Feminine.” In The Feminist Reader: Essays in

Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism. Catherine Belsey and Jane

Moore, eds. Blackwell, 1989, pp. 117-132.

Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Walter Kaufmann.

Vintage Books, 1966.

Noddings, Nel. Women and Evil. University of California Press, 1989.

O’Grady,  Kathleen. “Guardian of Language: An Interview with Helene Cixous.” Women’s Education des Femmes 12, 1996, pp. 6-10.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. “We Write for Our Own Time,” In A Casebook on Existentialism.

William Spanos, ed. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970, pp. 133-139.

Stephen, J. K. “A Thought,” Cambridge University Literary Magazine, 1891, pp. 15-17.

Woolf, Virginia. “Professions for Women. ”Collected Essays, vol.2. Hogarth

Press, 1966.

Book Review: Mediterranean Modernisms–The Poetic Metaphysics of Odysseus Elytis

Katerina Zissouli Book Review

Mediterranean Modernisms: The Poetic Metaphysics of Odysseus Elytis. By Marinos Pourgouris (Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2011), 230 pp. $70.99/£55.00 cloth.

Marinos Pourgouris’s Mediterranean Modernisms: The Poetic Metaphysics of Odysseus Elytis is an interesting book that reads more like a thematic collection of short essays than a unified work. Pourgouris states at the outset that his book’s five chapters examine the themes of modernism, nationalism, and the Mediterranean. His contribution to the life, poetry and literary legacy of Odysseus Elytis is indeed methodical. As the title suggests, Pourgouris attempts to disentangle the meaning of Greek identity and aesthetic in Elytis’s work and formulate his interpretation of Elytis’s poetic or more accurately, solar metaphysics. Pourgouris, furthermore, focuses on Elytis’s artistic and philosophic influence. He does so from the theoretical standpoint of poststructuralism, demonstrating the limitations of the cultural/linguistic/literary paradigm’s ability to account for the negative difference embedded in language itself. However, the extensive historical account included in the book becomes burdensome and difficult to navigate.

Pourgouris argues that there are definite similarities between Camus’s Mediterranean and Elytis’s Aegean. In fact, the author does not differentiate between the two, as according to him both Camus and Elytis are writing about and under the influence of the Mediterranean, constructing what he calls “a Mediterranean Aesthetic.” However, the differences in annual average temperatures and the vastly divergent terrain found in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, and on the islands of the Aegean Sea, I would argue, make for populations with different temperaments, values, traditions and needs.

Pourgouris is at his best when he links history to philosophy, theory and art. On the other hand, Elytis scholars have been well aware of his debt to movements such as Ancient Greek Philosophy, Surrealism, Orientalism and Christianity, just to name a few. What I find most interesting about Pourgouris’s work, however, is his ability to pose critical questions and examine the complexity of the intersections between theory and marginality. Largely informed by a late modernist (globalized) perspective, Pourgouris has compiled a substantial number of sources to argue his points.

In the first chapter, “Modernisms: From Paris to Athens,” Pourgouris gives a historical account of the development of art and poetry in Europe and Greece and the political influences that “necessitated” such development. In the words of Elytis, “1935-1945! An important decade in the chronicles of modern poetry permanently completes its circle. The polemical period is coming to an end” (p. 33).

In the second chapter, “Towards a New Mediterranean Culture,” Pourgouris takes up the limitations of poststructuralism by examining its tendencies toward negative difference, exoticization and othering. In short, he points out the ways in which poststructuralism and its advocates focus on difference without addressing its attendant compulsion: exclusion.

In the third chapter, “Theory of Analogies,” Pourgouris pieces together Elytis’s theory of Analogies, which he says was “constructed . . . from scattered references in the poet’s essays. Elytis himself does not explicitly connect these ideas in the form of a unified theory” (p. 65, N 3). Yet, if the poet himself was not interested in the need to construct such theory, it is not clear why Pourgouris has painstakingly created an idea that does not explicitly exist in the poet’s body of work. Such attempt then is futile, for according to the poet, “Everything can be assembled and disassembled except for the poet’s words” (p. 71).

In chapter four, “Solar Metaphysics,” Pourgouris claims, “Solar Metaphysics is linked to the form or structure of the entire poetic presentation” (p. 112). That is to say, the author seems to suggest that one ought to acknowledge the inevitability of referentiality and look at the challenges of modernity in art and architecture as points of departure in Elytis’s body of work.

The final chapter is devoted to what Pourgouris calls, “Architectural Poetics.” As the author puts it, the juxtaposition between Eros and Light and Death and Darkness is evident, as the concepts merge in The Monogram, Maria Nephele, The Axion Esti and The Little Seafarer. However, accepting the idea that the “modern condition” is in essence only “a condition of loss” (p. 162), negates the positive consequences of the modern condition, such as a more leisurely lifestyle, less time/space barriers, and easier communication across cultures, to name a few. Elytis, whose works celebrate the Mediterranean sun and sea, cannot be seen only as a gloomy, dark poet whose “central concepts” converge on the point where “Eros and Light” merge with “Death and Darkness” (p. 161).

The book’s rather abruptly concluded last chapter explores the ability of poetic architecture to “give shape and significance” to the poet’s meaning and “content” (p. 199). The crux of Pourgouris’s analysis then, lies on the philosophical point that “the crisis of modernism is . . . a crisis of nationality” based on the notion that Greece as the “marginalized other” is “understood both as a personal poetic resistance to the official or imposed historical narrative, and as an effort to illuminate what is suppressed or neglected, and make it public” (pp. 172, 200).

This blog was originally published on here: Katerina Zissouli’s Literature Website

Countries that Ban Books and How it Negatively Affects Their Residents

When we think of censorship, our minds may flicker back to the invention of the printing press and the subsequent crackdown of major governmental entities — specifically, the British Empire.

However, censorship is still alive and well to this very day, with several countries exercising their power to ban literary works religiously.

While there are a number of countries that participate in this act, here is a list of countries whose crimes against literature are the most egregious:

The first and most notable country on this list is, without a doubt, North Korea. Also referred to as the world’s most secretive (and oppressed) state, North Korea is known for its dismal lack of freedom of speech. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the ruling Kim family regime is in total control of every aspect of citizens’ lives.

This particular regime is infamous for restricting the flow of information traveling into the country; the influence of foreign media; the books, curricula, movies, plays, and music that are permitted within the country’s borders; and even citizens’ access to the internet.

By keeping citizens practically cut off from the surrounding world, the Kim regime has received undying loyalty and praise — which may or may not be fueled by fear. After all, it is not uncommon for those who speak out against the extremist government to be imprisoned, tortured, or worse.

Saudi Arabia comes in close second, with its notorious censorship laws that often prevent the publication and sale of books for no announced reason. In fact, many literary works are judged by the whim of the censor, who can ban a book on any logical basis — even if it is as simple as disliking the title.

Unfortunately, this act of banning on a whim is of great detriment not only to the people of Saudi Arabia but to its economy as well, seeing as Saudi Arabia holds the largest market for books in the Middle East.

Finally, this list would not be complete without naming the country whose efforts to censor literary material began in 213 B.C.: China. This authoritarian state has mastered the art of censoring material and making a profit whilst doing so, given its habit of releasing Western films and books with a special condition: that any and all references that place China or its allies in a bad light be removed.

Nine times out of ten, authors and directors will gladly cut out the portions Chinese censors find to be offensive, leaving the work that is released to the Chinese public incomplete and missing vital plot elements. Additionally, any authors, journalists, or directors who refuse to comply with these guidelines will be permanently banned from releasing work in the country.