Curricular discussion, yet again.
One of my colleagues laments. It's okay, s/he asserts (and I'm paraphrasing), that we teach [lit of people of color in whatever century/place], but really, we need to make sure students really know [lit of white men from that century] from that period. That's really central. The other stuff is okay, but only once students really know [lit of white men from that century]. The survey really needs to focus on [lit of white men from that century].
I teach mostly lit by white men. It's true. So far as we know, Shakespeare was white and male.
In conversations, I can tell that several of my colleagues assume that I must therefore agree that the white male canon is far superior to any other literature. I try to disabuse them of this notion pretty much every time, but it keeps coming back. I think they sort of don't hear me, because their assumptions are so strong.
What I'd like to say is that I don't think that white men have written anything interesting for the past 200 years, so we should, indeed, focus on writers of color or writers who are vaginally endowed.
It's not true, though. White men are still often fine writers who write interesting books. It would be fun to say it aloud, though, just to see the look of horror on their faces. But then they'd believe I really meant it, even if I said I was teasing, because they feel that white men are under siege, under attack (along with Christmas). It's one thing, I gather, to make sexist jokes about women, and quite another to make a joke about men. The one they take as funny because it's "just a joke," while the other they take as part of the war on all that makes life worth living.
But it is true that I don't value white male experience as central to what's important in literature.
It's going to be a long meeting, isn't it?