Yale English students call for end of focus on white male writers

shakespeare
From The Guardian: Undergraduates at Yale University have launched a petition calling on the English department to abolish a core course requirement to study canonical writers including Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, saying that “it is unacceptable that a Yale student considering studying English literature might read only white male authors”.
The prestigious Connecticut university requires its English majors to spend two semesters studying a selection of authors it labels the “major English poets”: “Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and John Donne in the fall; John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and TS Eliot or another modern poet in the spring”.
Its intention, the university says, “is to provide all students with a generous introduction to the abiding formal and thematic concerns of the English literary tradition”. The poems the students read, it adds, “take up questions and problems that resonate throughout the whole of English literature: the status of vernacular language, the moral promise and perils of fiction, the relationships between men and women, the nature of heroism, the riches of tradition and the yearning to make something new”.
But students have launched a petition calling on Yale to “decolonise” the course. They want the university to abolish the major English poets requirement, and to refocus the course’s pre-1800/1900 requirements “to deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity”.
The petition says that “a year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of colour, and queer folk are absent actively harms all students, regardless of their identity”, and that the course “creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of colour”.
According to the Yale Daily News, the petition has at least 160 signatories. One student, Adriana Miele, told the student newspaper that change was needed in the English department “because it openly rejects the very legitimate scholarship, criticism and analysis that many other academic departments at Yale embrace”.
In April, Miele wrote a column in the Yale Daily News in which she criticised the course because while students “are taught how to analyse canonical literature works”, they “are not taught to question why it is canonical, or the implications of canonical works that actively oppress and marginalise non-white, non-male, trans and queer people … It is possible to graduate with a degree in English language and literature by exclusively reading the works of (mostly wealthy) white men. Many students do not read a single female author in the two foundational courses for the major. This department actively contributes to the erasure of history,” Miele wrote.

Professor Jill Richards

Professor Jill Richards


Some members of Yale’s English faculty welcomed the student activism – Professor Jill Richards told the Yale Daily News that “it is unacceptable that the two-semester requirement for all majors routinely covers the work of eight white, male poets”. But the petition drew criticism from former members of the university.
Slate writer Katy Waldman, who studied English literature at Yale, advised students that “if you want to become well-versed in English literature, you’re going to have to hold your nose and read a lot of white male poets. Like, a lot. More than eight.”
“The canon is what it is, and anyone who wishes to understand how it continues to flow forward needs to learn to swim around in it,” writes Waldman. “I am not arguing that it is acceptable for an English major to graduate from college having only read white male authors or even 70% white male authors. But you cannot profess to be a student of English literature if you have not lingered in the slipstreams of certain foundational figures, who also happen to be (alas) both white and male.”
DCG

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kelliepage
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That’s just silly! Do these Yale kids really feel their degree would be well-rounded and worth more by completely eradicating Shakespeare and Chaucer? By completely skipping over “foundational figures” and including early queer and black authors instead, their understanding of English lit would be enhanced? That’s like studying the history of America and striking the part about Columbus’ voyage because he isn’t gay or black! In the flow of history, there is a place for black literature and there is another place for homosexual literature (and this one shouldn’t be mandatory!). Stupid liberal kids! Before we know it, our kids… Read more »

MomOfIV
Guest
MomOfIV

what in the world is “ableism”?
bunch of spoiled idiots

Auntie Lulu
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Auntie Lulu

It will not be long until a college degree will not be worth much . . . since it will be the students who decide what the curriculum will be! These self absorbed young people just seem to feel that the world revolves around them and their personal whims! Gag me!

truckjunkie
Guest
truckjunkie

I can just see one of these kids telling a prospective Employer,”I have two Degrees from Harvard,for “Attendance”.,and “Plays Well With Others”…

BlackConservativeMom
Guest
BlackConservativeMom

Auntie Lulu, a university degree is already worthless. It has been for years in several of the more promising and lucrative fields such as information technology (IT), where you can gain credentials as needed, or simply challenge an exam or build something to prove that you have the necessary skill and knowledge. I have a degree in English Lit from back in the 1980’s. The nonsense had already started back then, but it has taken root, flowered, run to seed and taken over the entire garden since then.

truckjunkie
Guest
truckjunkie

They’ve gone,it seems,to being mostly an ego-stroke for the academic that earns it,but little else.

Auntie Lulu
Guest
Auntie Lulu

BlackConservativeMom . . . and I’ll bet you worked your buns off earning that degree, as did I. When an “education” costs so much these days, what good will it be if the students start tell the universities what a curriculum will consist of? I hate to see this poison vine that is taking over the garden known as higher education.

Mr Graves
Guest
Mr Graves

Bare in mind that these young people of today will be running the world tomorrow… We should not look at them as mere students or young idiots, but rather as the sad proof of an atrocity; indoctrination and deep mental conditioning by a growing police state, From their early childhood to their adulthood. Evil has always known that attacking children is the most gut-wrenching thing it could do, yet this time around, turning young adults into children might be the next worst thing. When these people come to power, they will run everything they touch into the ground.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Then they shouldn’t read Che Guevara either. His real name was Ernest Lynch, born to an Irish couple who’d emigrated to Argentina.

Lana
Guest
Lana

Che’s mother was Jewish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eMLk1nQh5o Words is btw so is Castro.

Auntie Lulu
Guest
Auntie Lulu

Anonymous . . . thank you for your contribution, I had no idea that his ancestry was Irish. I always thought that he was Hispanic, through and through.

Joanne Rosemarie
Guest
Joanne Rosemarie

For goodness sake! There are those who get their legs blown off in conflict or the average civilian fighting medical mishaps who don’t get hand outs over hurt feelings. If I’d have had a handout over every time my feelings got hurt in the workplace because someone bullied me or made me feel small then I’d be richer than The Donald!

Joanne Rosemarie
Guest
Joanne Rosemarie

Whoops meant this comment for the other thread!
I must be getting angry ?

Auntie Lulu
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Auntie Lulu

Amen!

frohky
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frohky

My son teaches English language and literature at a small private college in NJ. He works hard at his craft and frequently complains that his 3-yr-old daughter has a larger vocabulary than most of his students. I tell him to keep his chin up. Many students still want to learn. Those who wish to remain ignorant will learn life’s lessons the hard way.

Kevin Lankford
Member
Kevin Lankford

So they want to study irrelevant unknowns. Let em have it, and see where it takes em. I guess knowing what not to do may be as good as knowing the right way.
Is there any thing relevant about college any more,…any how?

Dan
Guest
Dan

The quotes from that arrogant student petition leave out the best part, that “students who continue on after taking the introductory sequence are ill-prepared to take higher-level courses relating to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity…,” ad nauseam. Maybe like taking some of that really higher-level, peer-reviewed stuff Prof Jill writes, which according to her c.v. Includes subjects such as women and weepies, not to mention excellent works on all sorts of “queerness.” You can’t make this stuff up. This travesty is beyond parody, except to note Prof Jill will probably be going by the name Jack next semester, and maybe sporting… Read more »

Dave
Editor
Dave

The ivy has wilted.

upaces88
Guest
upaces88

Welllll, talking about dumbing down people…go for it; and that is exactly what the students will get.
When I was in Graduate School, I had to first take the basic classes before I could take Clinical Psychology, etc.
I finally had to sit at the last row in the classroom. Why? I was hoping they couldn’t see my jaw drop OR the rolling my eyes; and/or sigh heavily what crap rolled across their lips!
Finally, I had to research it. “How old are teachers mentally?”
I did get an answer: They are emotionally-intellectually 11 yrs old.”

upaces88
Guest
upaces88

frohky—I hear you loud and clear.

RCAC
Guest
RCAC

Gee imagine reading Mongolia’s Shakespeare; Uganda’s Yeats, Yemen’s Tolstoy. Yale students are really a good reason to check out your local community college.

MomOfIV
Guest
MomOfIV

it’s highly probable that today’s youth/young adult simply does not have the mental capacity to understand the classical written word and choose to mock those who wrote great literature instead of expanding their minds to learn something new.

Joanne Rosemarie
Guest
Joanne Rosemarie

Most young people think they have a right to get a degree. I’ll tell you a story if you don’t mind… I’m a mature student and I’m in the last bit of my Psychology degree, which is all online. Needless to say we don’t get very much tutor support and I was having trouble with a paper so I sought private help for the first time. The person had a masters so I thought she must be good. Turns out she had no A levels which are a pre-requisite for a standard university education here in the UK. To make… Read more »

upaces88
Guest
upaces88

What is disturbing is that the classics like Shakespeare, KIng Arthur and the Round Table actually teach moral, righteous and ethical codes…what happens when there are NO codes to live by.
They teach Cause vs. effect.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee … Art · Biography · Business · Chick Lit · Children’s · Christian · Classics · Comics · Contemporary … As a high school English teacher, I have taught many, many novels. ….. Oedipus Rex (The Theban Plays, #1) … The Old Man and the Sea
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1757.Best_Books_to_Teach_in_high_school

Auntie Lulu
Guest
Auntie Lulu

Joanne . . . I wish you the very best in finishing your degree. I know you must have worked hard!

xenonman
Guest
xenonman

Well, there’s always Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe!

upaces88
Guest
upaces88

I feel dumb. I don’t think I know about that.

Lana
Guest
Lana

For God’s sake, IT IS ENGLISH literature !!!!!!

upaces88
Guest
upaces88

English Literature that TEACHES Life’s lessons:
Morality
Code of Ethics
Cause and Effect of how your life can or cannot be without any of the above.
The message is TRUE.

Steven Broiles
Member

What do Hemingway, John Kennedy Toole, Sylvia Plath, and a lot of other white males and females have in common (although not with The Bard)? SUICIDE. For many decades now, public and private education have been pushing the works of many writers who committed suicide (although few teachers, if any, mention it—although I made it a point to mention it if I knew it). This is what is going on. It’s in Yale. Yale University is a Skull & Bones operation; They do not control the administrative operations of Yale University, of course. They don’t have to. But their spirit… Read more »