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Publication Date

Spring 2017

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Thomas Moriarty


Decolonialism, Exegesis, Feminism, Friendship, Islam, Travel

Subject Areas

English literature


There is a hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad that advises a woman should not travel alone longer than two days and three nights. To travel alone, therefore, is a feminist act. The Faculty of Discernment is a collection of feminist travel vignettes compiled according to the suggestion that a woman who travels, in spite of its dangers, is a revolutionary. The work chronicles routine life in each city it features, introducing a local character who meets her network, her culture, and social norms with an analytical eye, employing the faculty of discernment. The collection is sectioned into seven major divisions separated by interludes. “Naogaon” identifies the narrator as living in the United States and struggling with the pressures in a “broken” household and isolation. In “Cape Town,” she travels to South Africa after receiving a wedding invitation from a friend who is challenging a local mosque’s refusal to allow her to recite her own wedding vows. In “Beirut,” the narrator is invited to a second wedding, in which the bride is marrying a man outside of her religious sect and must confront sectarianism in Lebanon. In “Paris,” the narrator describes her experiences with sexism and racism at the age of sixteen during a stay in France. Meanwhile, in “Ruby Avenue,” she struggles to desegregate her local mosque. She visits a friend in “Santiago,” and the two discuss the local impacts of colonialism. Finally, in “The Bay,” the narrator has partially recovered from her feelings of estrangement and begins to connect to her own network of local friends.