Texas State’s visiting Fulbright scholar spoke to English classes last week to explain how literature serves as common ground for cultures around the world. Eman El Meligi spoke to students on comparative literature, which examines literature from different cultures.
El Meligi applied for the Fulbright program in 2007 after giving a lecture at the American Center at Alexandria University in Damanhur, Egypt. Since her acceptance into the program, she has conducted academic research and traveled as a guest speaker to universities across the country.
The Fulbright scholar discussed comparative literature to a world literature course taught by Lindy Kosmitis. She also visited classes taught by Teya Rosenberg, Chad Hammett, and met with members of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honors fraternity.
The Fulbright program offers annual grants to international participants whose achievements reflect academic merit and cross-cultural experiences. The U.S. government sponsors this program, and participants are given the opportunity to teach and conduct research in a foreign country.
El Meligi studied in several Arabic countries and is currently an associate professor at Alexandria University. She is also a visiting professor at Gettysburg College. She has published many articles about comparative literature, She also wrote a screenplay while maintaining the position of executive director for a televised documentary series about ancient Egypt.
El Meligi lectured students March 21 on the works of George Bernard Shaw and Tawfiq El-Hakim . She explained how literature is an interdisciplinary study and said a reader must connect with the thoughts and ideas of the outside world in order to understand the text.
“The novel is like a web,” she said. “It’s amazing how many things are common among humanity.”
El Meligi discussed the progression of the spoken and written word and how it changes over time. Nancy Wilson, English professor and director of Texas State’s Writing Center, attended the lecture.
“The language we speak now is different from the language of Shakespeare,” Wilson said. “The barrier can be difficult to identify.”
Students interested in literary and cultural studies were present at the discussion as well. Chelsea Horton, international studies sophomore, found a common theme in El Meligi’s lecture.
“Looking at comparative literature brings everything together,” Horton said. “If you look at stories across culture, you see how the common themes bring us together.”
El Meligi said she owes so much of her success to professors during her graduate studies. She said it’s important for students to learn from criticism.
“I learned so much from the professors who were the hardest,” she said. “I was pushed and motivated to be organized.”
The scholar said it’s common for aspiring writers to feel intimidated by the “intellectual jargon” of critical theory. She encourages students to find their own voice in literature.
“I suggest young students read great writers and then produce their own peculiar, unique works of art, and not feel hampered by critics,” she said.
El Meligi is currently working on a comparative study of US Chicano and Arab-American literature. She plans on becoming an official professor at Alexandria University.
When asked about her beliefs regarding the political discourse in her country, El Meligi said the situation has hurt her greatly. However, she has found a connection to literature which functions as an escape from reality.
“I see things through literature,” she said. “This is my reality. It makes me feel like I can live, that I can go on.”