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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

In Praise Of Dead White European Males

"Go into any high school today and you might...hear, 'Who's William Faulkner?' 'Who's Vladimir Nabokov?' 'Who's Joseph Conrad?' And maybe even, 'Who's Ernest Hemingway?' "

Jodi Daynard. high school English teacher at Emerson College, writes in The Boston Globe that any literature curriculum that ignores writers such as Joyce, Hawthorne, Melville, Conrad, Faulkner, et al will make students miss "a critical dimension of their education: the understanding of our universal struggle and despair, an understanding that should form a part of every generation's consciousness. To think that the human condition is hunky-dory is just, well -- wrongheaded. And dangerous."

This is no repetition of the magisterial pronouncements of Harold Bloom, or an exegesis of Bellow's infamous "where is the Tolstoy of the Zulus?" statement. Daynard feels that students today have a healthy self-identity in any case, fostered by their knowledge of multiculturalism. Therefore, she concludes: "Who's Hawthorne? Who's Faulkner? Who's Conrad? Three of the most important writers in the English language. So, if you're a parent reading this, go get the great books for your teenagers. Get the Brontë sisters. Henry James. Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Conrad. Faulkner. Camus. Jean-Paul Sartre. Woolf. James Baldwin. Toni Morrison. Nabokov."

2 Comments:

  • I'm in college and I'm sick of people scrambling around looking definitions. We discuss questions such as 'What is good literature?', 'What is the relationship between literature and morality?' etc. I thoroughly appreciate the exploration but...why the determination to stuff things into 'acceptable' holes? Is it necessary to ask qustions only to arrive at absolute answers? I suppose being in limbo is uncomfortable for most people...

    By Blogger Silkworm, at 6:05 PM  

  • Well, asking questions is a way to explore attitudes, raisons-detre and yardsticks...and then, categorisation and pigeon-holing are traits observed in homo sapiens from the time of Aristotle, if not before...

    By Blogger PrufrockTwo, at 6:17 PM  

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