Accad compares war and sexuality

by Jennifer Skoda | 11/16/93 6:00am

In a lecture last night in Rockefeller Center Evelyne Accad, author of "Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East," compared how men and women novelists writing about destruction in Lebanon, where she has lived and studied, react differently to war.

Introducing Accad, Marianne Hirsch, professor of comparative literature, noted that it was appropriate for various departments and programs, including Asian studies, comparative literature, French, women studies and the Dickey Endowment for International Understanding, to sponsor Accad's talk because the novelist, writer and feminist theorist teaches French, comparative literature, women studies, Asian studies and African studies in Beirut and in this country at the University of Illinois.

Accad began her lecture titled "War and Sexuality" by reading two descriptions of Lebanon. One was by a man and the other by a woman, but Accad didn't tell which was which.

The first compared the city to "a whore sleeping with a thousand bombs" while the second saw it as "a great suffering being ... raped like those girls raped by thirty or forty militia men." The audience laughed in affirmation when Accad said she didn't have to identify which was the female and the male writer.

The comparison introduced Accad's study, in which she looked at novels by six Lebanese authors, three women and three men. "I used literature to understand what was going on in Lebanon," she said.

Accad said that both the male and female writers she analyzed saw war as bleak, but the male novelists she studied all portrayed it as "a necessary evil," whereas the female authors emphasized "nonviolent struggles and causes to help the poor" while also striving for liberation in their own lives.

The tendency toward intense sexuality and away from caring relationships was central to Accad's analysis of war. "I tried to show that sexuality is much more central to political and social problems than has been previously considered," she said.

Accad concluded her lecture by explaining her own preference for tenderness and equal sharing over passionate sexuality, which reflected her emphasis on peace instead of war.

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