Reading Lolita in Tehran Questions and Answers
by Azar Nafisi

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What does literature represent in the novel Reading Lolita in Tehran? How do Nafisi's students' experiences in Iran shape their interpretation of Nabakov's novel Lolita?

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Literature seems to represent a mirror by which Nafisi and her students aim to  reconcile their revolutionary ideas with the draconian intolerance of the Ayatollahs. Nafisi's book is divided into four main literary sections: Lolita, Gatsby, Henry James, and Jane Austen. The section on Lolita especially deals with how Iranian women can glean wisdom from the work to analyze and determine their personal paths in the light of feminine marginalization by the fundamentalist regime.

In reading Lolita with her seven female students, Nafisi finds parallels between Nabokov's girl protagonist and Iran's state of collective helplessness. Inherent in the national consciousness of Iran is the struggle to define a people's identity apart from westernized ideas of freedom and rule of law. Despite this, Iran finds herself having to choose between the Shah of Iran's oppressive secular regime and the new repressive Islamic caliphate championed by the Ayatollahs. Either way, Nafisi's personal experiences as...

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