Salman Rushdie and the power of stories

To Salman Rushdie, storytelling matters. During his public lecture at Emory in February, the University Distinguished Professor made his case: that stories help us to feel and know truths beyond what truth can tell us.

Through a whirling dervish of activity, Rushdie lifted stories off the written page to make them as relevant to current world affairs as to Shakespearean studies. At Emory's India Summit, he discussed the controversial decision of a publisher to recall and destroy a book on Hinduism by an American scholar, worrying that this silencing of stories is indicative of a "cultural emergency" in his native country. To Emory College, his intellectual home on campus, he brought energy and insights on storytelling to classes in literature, film studies, and cross-cultural communication.

Storytelling also informed Rushdie's conversations with campus leaders. In a meeting with Robyn Fivush, who leads Emory's Commission on the Liberal Arts, and Philip Wainwright, vice provost of international affairs, the talk led to the intersection of liberal arts and globalization. How storytelling can bridge disciplines and countries. How it allows us to see through others' eyes. How it can affirm what is universal in our experience and give us deeper insights into our differences. This discussion comes at a particularly important time at Emory, when leaders are pursuing strategies to strengthen the liberal arts and globalization at the university.

"I so enjoyed Salman Rushdie's time on campus this semester," says Provost Claire Sterk. "He sees the power of uniting scientific and humanistic perceptions to help us answer the big questions. Plus, he tells a good story."