Thursday, March 17, 2011

One Last Thing

I was looking at a course syllabus that purported to represent a bunch of European culture, and had a section on "race, class, and gender" which included two upper class white male writers and two upper class white female writers. In fifteen weeks of readings, those were the only female writers represented.

The "contemporary" section of the course had a single text from the 1960s, the most recently written text in the course by about 20 years. Now I have nothing against really old dead writers, but they're "contemporary" only in geologic time.

I spent time today in this meeting hearing someone opine that Tolstoy was great enough to represent all of human nature, all social classes, etc.

That same person opined that there just weren't people of color in Europe before the 20th century.

Guess THAT will show the Ottomans and the Moors, eh!

Another person said that there just weren't many female writers.

Another person worried that I would be mean in a meeting if his course ever came up and I realized that he taught out of a textbook authored by a male. (Because, you know, I would never teach a text authored by a male.)

I felt like we'd somehow timewarped to a 1950s college meeting.


  1. *headdesk*. There goes my last book. And all the work on women writers. This is when I do my "We've been doing this work for 30 years, where have you guys been" lecture. (And I've given it at conferences.)

    You might assign Elizabeth Minnich's Transforming Knowledge.

  2. Wait, was this within your own department? Or was another academic nightmare, a la Heu Mihi's last post?

  3. In my institution, the Literary Theory course (not in my department) has no women as assigned reading and only two African-Americans (out of 30 total).
    I had a professor once tell me that my syllabus for a course, where we studied different articulations of the dichotomy civilization vs. barbarism throughout Latin American history, was "political". I just stared at him and asked him how it cannot be "political"?

  4. I am currently teaching a section of a common-syllabus Western Civ course that makes me gnash my teeth on a weekly basis. In the units on "Religion" and "Science/Philosophy," there are NO women. However, EB Browning and George Eliot do make brief appearances in the "Aesthetics" unit--because, you know, that's ALL that women have contributed in those three areas, from Genesis to the present day.

    People of color? We do a one-day segment called "An Eastern View." And that is it.

    AAAAAAGH. I'm just grateful that this is a one-off course for me. (And, frankly, I think that its death knell is sounding in the distance, as Gen Ed reform keeps getting bandied about.)

  5. Midprof7:49 AM

    Yuk. And double-yuk to the idea that you are being "mean" -- this derides your critique of the syllabus and paints it as stemming not from intellectual or pedagogical concerns, but from bitchiness.