Monday, June 13, 2016

Bedwetter alert

Best and brightest indeed.  Yale English majors want to be protected from.... English writers. They submitted this petition to the English Department:

We, undergraduate students in the Yale English Department, write to urge the faculty to reevaluate the undergraduate curriculum. We ask the department to reconsider the current core requirements and the introductory courses for the major.

In particular, we oppose the continued existence of the Major English Poets sequence as the primary prerequisite for further study. It is unacceptable that a Yale student considering studying English literature might read only white male authors. A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms all students, regardless of their identity. The Major English Poets sequences creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.  (Um, white males are who wrote English literature for quote some time.  I wonder what they would say if I started demanding the inclusion of white authors in a study of African literature.)

When students are made to feel so alienated that they get up and leave the room, or get up and leave the major, something is wrong. (Yes, something is wrong.  They are not mature enough to engage in critical thinking.) The English department loses out when talented students engaged in literary and cultural analysis are driven away from the major. Students who continue on after taking the introductory sequence are ill-prepared to take higher-level courses relating to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, ability, or even to engage with critical theory or secondary scholarship. We ask that Major English Poets be abolished, and that the pre-1800/1900 requirements be refocused to deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity. (Many students have begged to be saved from Shakespeare and Chaucer. They just didn't use this angle.)

It’s time for the English major to decolonize — not diversify — its course offerings. A 21st century education is a diverse education: we write to you today inspired by student activism across the university, and to make sure that you know that the English department is not immune from the collective call to action.

It is our understanding that the faculty must vote in order to reconsider the major’s requirements — considering the concerns expressed here and elsewhere by undergraduate students, we believe it would be unethical for any member of the faculty, no matter their stance on these issues, to vote against beginning the reevaluation process. It is your responsibility as educators to listen to student voices. We have spoken. We are speaking. Pay attention.

National Review got it right in its coverage of these snowflakes:

It’s as if chemistry students objected to learning the periodic table or math students rose up against the teaching of differential calculus....

It takes a deeply impoverished imagination to read Shakespeare and regard him simply as an agent of the patriarchy. It is safe to say that the bard is better at expressing what it is like to be a teenage girl in love, or a woman disguised as a man who falls for a man, or a bloody tyrant than almost every actual teenage girl in love, woman disguised as a man, or bloody tyrant.

The poet Maya Angelou said in a lecture once that as a child she thought, “Shakespeare must be a black girl.” It was because, growing up in the Jim Crow South, a victim of unspeakable abuse, Sonnet 29 spoke so powerfully to her. (“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, / I all alone beweep my outcast state, / And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, / And look upon myself and curse my fate.”)

Yale’s petitioners must consider Toni Morrison a traitor to her race and gender. She had an argument with a theater director years ago in which she defended Othello, and she went on to write a production based on Desdemona, the play’s doomed female character. Or how about Derek Walcott, whom a Yale professor sympathetic to the petitioners suggests adding to the required course? He told The Guardian newspaper a few years ago that it would be absurd to say, “Don’t read Shakespeare because he was white.”(Or actor Lawrence Fishburne when he participated in the movie version of Othello. He said he changed his mind on Shakespeare after reciting his lines.)

Anyone reading widely in the English canon will encounter supremely talented female, black, and gay writers. In fact, many other Yale courses feature them. But the creative stream began with so-called dead white males. It is their genius that their words transcend their time and place and have given us phrases, characters, and stories that are still vital today.

An official description of the Major English Poets seminar says the classes seek to create a heightened “curiosity about the way language works,” as well as “a confidence in engaging with historically and formally diverse literary texts.” This is a reasonable enough academic goal — unless the students involved are willfully incapable of curiosity or confidence.

Make it stop. 


Anonymous said...

Truly hard to fathom even in this day and age!

Anonymous said...

we believe it would be unethical for any member of the faculty, no matter their stance on these issues, to vote against beginning the reevaluation process. It is your responsibility as educators to listen to student voices. We have spoken. We are speaking. Pay attention.

Well, I think that about sums it up! We are right, you are wrong, disagree with us and you are unethical! No matter your stance!

Kingfish said...

Keep in mind Communism and Naziism were movements of the young.

Anonymous said...

I find the New Yorke's peace on this progressivism to be a good read.

It did a good job of differentiating the students who think like in your post above from those older than me.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but think that this is an elaborate joke. Surely these kids are really laughing about the fact that anyone is taking this seriously.

Anonymous said...

Out of all the threats facing our way of life today, this one scares me the most. These people are dangerous.

Anonymous said...

As an English Major(albeit not from Yale), I'm really confused by their request. My class options included several classes on Multi-Ethnic Literature(and the ones I took were pretty great), so I bet Yale offers some. Also, as far as queer writers go, did these guys miss out studying Lord Byron?

Anonymous said...

Here are some of the actual course offerings in the Yale English department. My favorite is Picture Writing with Photos and Images. Heaven forbid these scholars learn to construct a proper sentence.

ENGL 261 Picture Writing with Photo-texts & Image-texts
ENGL 281 Animals in Modern American Fiction
ENGL 291 The American Novel since 1945
ENGL 292 Imagining Sexual Politics, 1960s to the Present
ENGL 293 Race and Gender in American Literature
ENGL 300 Introduction to Theory of Literature
ENGL 306 American Artists and the African American Book
ENGL 313 Poetry and Political Sensibility
ENGL 325 Modern Apocalyptic Narratives
ENGL 326 The Spectacle of Disability
ENGL 334 Postcolonial World Literature, 1945-Present
ENGL 352 Asian American Literature
ENGL 358 Literature for Young People
ENGL 411 Shakespeare on Film
ENGL 414 Utopia
ENGL 430 American Culture and the Rise of the Environment
ENGL 433 The Nonhuman in Literature and Culture since 1800

Anonymous said...

If these "students" are so damn smart that they know how best to educate, why in the heck are they "students?" I think they just need to go start their own university and teach any way they desire. I'm sure they would be able to put Yale and the rest of the Ive League schools out of business in just a few short years.

Since when did students start running the schools? When I was in college this type of BS (not Bachelor Science) would never have seen the light of day. BRATS!

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Are they not aware they have the ability to read whatever they want to read?

Anonymous said...

These idiots are the future leaders of the Democrat, scratch that, Communist party in America. Democrat, Communist and Marxists are virtually the same today, a convergence of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Of course we should exclude Jane Austen or Elizabeth Barrett Browning or the Bronte sisters and God forbid students learn about Lady Mary Chudleigh or Anne Bradstreet.
After all, Chaucer was so much more relevant and that is why we have so many more movies in modern times based on his life and works!
And, we all know that men are ever so much better at describing the thoughts of women and women had absolutely no role in English history. That first Elizabeth was irrelevant wasn't she compared to her father.

Anonymous said...

This is what is wrong with America we are caving to these thinned skinned, PC, sissies. Yes I agree add a diverse group of writers. this should have been done years ago. Didn't the students have access to the curriculum prior to enrollment. If you don't like it leave, find another college. The real world is going to be tough for these people.

Kingfish said...

Elizabeth Barrett Browning has fallen out of favor over the years as her poetry is seen as being more quaint.

Heck, she wasn't even the best poet in her own family.

Gordo's Loop said...

The writer lost credibility when he suggested that the long list of white poets included no 'queer folk'.

Thisbe said...

I'm with whomever speculated that this whole thing might be 100% tongue-in-cheek waggery. The late, great Ann Landers used to publish similar letters (advice-seekers whose fantastical "problems" strained credulity, to say the very least)---and she would "out" these bogus letters by saying. "The boys from Yale are at it again." Well, I reckon they're still at it, though there are probably some GURLS who co-signed this claptrap, too (if it's real, but I so hope not...) Sheeeesh.

Anonymous said...

Look up the definition of Yakking.

Anonymous said...

Years ago our office hosted a visiting scholar who was an English major at Yale. We took him to lunch to the Mayflower and we were super excited to be able to point out that Eudora Welty who was also dining there. He had no idea who she was.

Garima said...


Anonymous said...

PS: This petition was never presented to the English Department and is a perfect example of 'outrage porn'. While I appreciate that this is a blog and isn't real journalism, the last you could do is update the story with a correction. However, I doubt, seriously, this comment will even make it through moderation.

Link to actually what happened:

Kingfish said...

It's ok. I don't consider you to be a real reader worth taking seriously.

I don't take most internet outrage stories very seriously. THere is usually a key fact that is missing. In this case, I waited several days for one to appear and none did. However, the story YOU cited had this little sentence:

the story was picked up by the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Le Monde, Fox News, New York Post, and other outlets.

So I wait several days and the story was published by some pretty major news organizations yet the problem is me.

Got it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, which local Democratic hack operative and attack "pollster" has a fondness for Yale?

Anonymous said...

@Kingfish: You waited several days -- great. But you still got the story completely wrong... and haven't updated it to reflect the actual facts.

Yale issued that statement on the 10th, your story ran on the 13th.

The fact you were in good company with your other folks who picked up the story? How would you respond if you got a story right... the Clarion Ledger had a story wrong, but they got it wrong along with the Jackson Free Press? You'd mock them, at the very least.

NO-NAME Yale Lineman no non-Legend said...

Damn. If there was ever any testament to the Mississippi and Nationwide search engine power of JJ Kingfish it is the various piss-ants commenting, posting, BEGGING, anonymously for you to update the story.

Garima said...


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