Should You Read Racist, Sexist, Colonialist Poets? Yes!

It’s the grown-up version of eating your vegetables. http://slate.me/1TGAjQp
  1. English majors at Yale are demanding that the university “decolonize” its curriculum.
    They’re upset that students are required to study white male poets like Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Eliot.
  2. Students want to replace these courses with “literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity.”
  3. The English department at Yale has attracted past scrutiny for its demographics.
    Only seven of its 98 faculty members identify as non-white.
  4. But…
  5. As Katy Waldman writes, these old dead white guys are literature’s “heavies, chord progressions upon which the rest of us continue to improvise, and we’d be somewhere else entirely without them.”
  6. In other words, without Milton there would be no Adrienne Rich or Katniss Everdeen.
  7. Despite their shortcomings, the major English poets were also remarkable chroniclers of human experience.
    Take the racial commentaries in “Othello,” or the queer-friendly gender-bending of “Twelfth Night.”
  8. It’s also worth examining the current options for students seeking more diverse voices.
  9. Yale offers courses like, ““Women Writers from the Restoration to Romanticism,” “Race and Gender in American Literature,” “American Artists and the African American Book,” “The Spectacle of Disability,” and “Asian American Literature,” to name just a few.
  10. For anyone proclaiming a serious love of English literature, these courses are invaluable — and so are the classics.