Sunday, November 4, 2007

More on People Who Influence Others

"...That's why it was no surprise that Cho Seung-Hui, the murderer of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech, was an English Major"
-Phyllis Schlafly

Speaking of antagonizing, I've been meaning to talk about an article I read recently, and now seems like the perfect time to do it.

The article in question appeared in a local paper at the beginning of October. I just Googled it to find a link for you all, and realized that this same article has appeared across the country. Just think of all the people who have read it. Now, read it yourself: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2007/10/advice-to-colle.html

Another classic example of canonical elitism, and did you catch the racist overtones? Yeesh. I like that her writing is illogical and often makes no sense, too: "Current works promoting multiculturalism written by women and minorities replaced the classics of Western civilization written by the DWEMS, Dead White European Males." Even though it may look like she's making fun of the DWEMS, she's really defending them. So, why the satirical acronym? Beats me.

I took Shakespeare, so by definition, I'm no fraud. However, I considered it then, and consider it now, one of the least useful classes I took as an undergrad. Funnily enough, one of the most useful was one of those "worthless courses," Ethnic Literature. Worse yet, most of the authors we read were *gasp* still living!

Why is Shakespeare so important to these people? I can give credit for the fact that he influenced a lot of what came after him, and that he had some nice complex plots and characters. Fine. But, think about it. People have been studying him for so long that the proverbial Shakespeare well is pretty dry. You want to learn more about homoerotic themes in Hamlet? There are plenty of articles already written about the topic.

But, when you get to the living authors, authors whose book was just published last year, and you want to dive deeper, well, you've got to do it all by yourself. Isn't that more of a challenge than just searching for what other people already said about it? Isn't that where true scholarship lies?

So, let's ask the question, shall we? What's the point of an English degree? An also-important question: On the list of "worthless courses" she gives, how many would you like to take?

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Funny, because as I read through the list of "useless" classes, I kept thinking, "That sounds interesting. Oooh, I'd like to take that one. Wonder if it's offered online."

I don't see why English departments can't (and I believe most do) offer both the classics and modern works. In my dinky little high school we had both a Shakespeare class and a Modern Paperback class. Most of the kids took both.

Phyllis Schlafly is a dinosaur, and not a cute T. Rex. Her whole philosophy is that women should stay home, barefoot and pregnant. And if that's all we're good for, well then, we can't possibly create anything useful and, by her logic, have nothing work studying.