Imagine what the private schools must be like »« Josh v Guido

If you want women writers go down the hall, in full

When the silliness of David Gilmour hit the newspapers, Hazlitt magazine posted the full transcript of the interview. It changes nothing.

Keeler: So do you teach mostly, I guess classic lit, or Russian?

Gilmour: I teach modern short fiction to third-years and first. So I teach mostly Russian and American authors. Not much on the Canadian front.

Keeler: That’s too bad.

Gilmour: I know, it is, but I can only teach stuff I love. I can’t teach stuff that’s on that curriculum, and I just haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach.

Gilmour: Come in!

[A student or colleague of Gilmour’s comes in. They speak to each other in French.]

Keeler: I notice that you don’t have many, like, books by women.

Gilmour: I’m not interested in teaching books by women. I’ve never found—Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one short story from Virginia Woolf. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would teach only the people that I truly, truly love. And, unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Um. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I try Virginia Woolf, I find she actually doesn’t work. She’s too sophisticated. She’s too sophisticated for even a third-year class. So you’re quite right, and usually at the beginning of the semester someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I’m good at is guys.

Keeler: And guys’ guys, too.

Gilmour: Yeah, very serious heterosexual guys. Elmore Leonard. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy guys. That’s a very good observation. Henry Miller. Uh. Philip Roth.

Being the kind of novelist Gilmour truly, truly loves is just more of a guy thing, that’s all.

That’s ok. If the University of Toronto wants a novelist teaching novels – which is not a crazy thing to want – then ok, he doesn’t have to measure up to normal academic standards which would require a considerably broader curriculum. That’s ok. But still the fact is that he’s very narrow, and apparently not even aware that he’s very narrow.

Mary Ellen Foley pointed out a satirical response from the woman down the hall.

I teach only the best. I don’t have low shelf-esteem, so I won’t tell you how many times I’ve read To the Lighthouse (100 times). What happens with great literature is that the shadows on the pages move around. The same thing happens with mediocre literature on a slow afternoon, but I digress. I teach only the best. I haven’t encountered any Russian writers yet that I love enough to teach. Once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Next semester I plan to offer a seminar on me.

[UPDATE:] Those remarks were totally off the cuff. At the time of the interview, I was Skyping with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate peace. Moreover, I was gestating a human child inside of my own body.

Someone’s knocking at the door, I gotta go.

 

Comments

  1. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    David Gilmour teaches Russian authors. Does he know Russian- a prerequirement for teaching Russian authors, I’d have thought?

    I’m not interested in teaching books by women.

    This makes it plain that Professor Gilmour is sexually biased and presupposes that women can’t write the kind of books he likes. He could have said “I’m not interested in teaching books by women. I’m not interested in teaching books by men. I’m interested in teaching the books I like.” After all, “I’m interested in teaching the books I like.” was one of the terms on which he took the job. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that there are books he hasn’t read but might like, and that some of these books might be by women.

    when I try Virginia Woolf, I find she actually doesn’t work. She’s too sophisticated. She’s too sophisticated for even a third-year class.

    Again, this suggests Professor Gilmour isn’t a very good teacher. I studied Virginia Woolf- as did many other students- at “A-level”, the English university-entrance qualification course. I certainly didn’t get all there is in her, but she certainly wasn’t “too sophisticated” for us to study. We became more sophisticated by studying her.

    Elmore Leonard. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy guys.

    I don’t think Professor Gilmour is actually sophisticated enough for these real guy guys either. Both Fitzgerald and Leonard, in different ways, discuss who are “real guy guys” and question just who are “real guy guys” and whether and how there are such things. It’s a central topic of their writing- in some of Leonard’s books the central topic. There’s certainly more- a lot more- to Tolstoy and Chekhov too.

  2. Numenaster says

    Note that he interrupted the interview to have his anxious French accent moment with the guy who happened by. Five gets you ten that he wouldn’t have interrupted the interview for a female student.

  3. Amy Clare says

    #3 “It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that there are books he hasn’t read but might like, and that some of these books might be by women.”

    It also doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that women are individuals, and female writers write in all kinds of different ways according to their personality and talents. Not just one, monolithic, ‘woman’ way.

  4. says

    From a Guardian aricle I saw today:

    “In an attempt at self-defence in Canada’s National Post, Gilmour explained that his editor, Patrick Crean, at Patrick Crean Editions, “was concerned that this was going to affect the general climate around the book [Extraordinary], that some women might not like the book if they think that that’s my policy. And that’s one of the reasons that I’m apologising. Normally I actually wouldn’t.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    Since many universities have courses in Womens’ Lit, I wouldn’t have a problem if he advertised his course as “Mens’ Literature,” and taught it as such. There’s actually quite a bit that might be interesting in such a course in terms of male stereotypes and gender roles and expectations. But judging from this guy’s interview, it doesn’t sound as if he’d be up to teaching that course either.

  6. says

    Thanks for the link to the transcript. This just gets better and better. Asked what’s on his bookshelves, he starts by pointing out two sections consisting only of translated editions of his work. Once again, he’s all about boasting — but then Professor Gilmour reveals by his use of ‘bellicose’ that he doesn’t know what the word means (unless he really did mean to say that I guy with a big laugh, who really, really enjoys laughing, has a warlike laugh). And then–here’s a copy of my film.

    In addition to being certain he’s the only academic teaching Capote, he says without qualification that he’s the only academic teaching Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. But he cannot possibly know that. It isn’t even likely to be true, and he can’t know what every teacher on the continent, the hemisphere, the world (in the case of Miller, he doesn’t give a balllpark) has on a syllabus. It’s just more me, me, me — no, that’s wrong. An interview is me, me, me; what this guy is giving out instead is I’m-so-great, I’m-so-great, I’m-so-great.

    He even points out to her that his jacket is Armani. And says “as soon as I get into class I take it off so nobody ever sees how great it is.” Sheesh! This guy ought to be grateful that the interviewer made him look as good as she did!!

  7. rnilsson says

    Maybe Herr Doktor Professor Gilmour could apply for a small supporting role in the tv sop soap opera The Bold And The Beatiful which runs in Sweden since soo many years under the title Glamour — he could claim to be a long missing, misspelt hero. AAand, it’s about fashion too! (I think.) Now, ain’t that subservient, er, subversive, er, cerebral; hatever?

    Although I do begin to feel some nagging suspicion about his self-proposed propensity for French*, as well. Armani is Italian! Like Ferrari**; Peugeot is a French bicycle (though rather snazzy).

    Not everyone has to be polyglot a lot, but it helps to be a little bit glotty, rather than snotty a lot.

    * In Canada? Come on!
    ** On the other hand, Lamborghini also makes tractors.

  8. left0ver1under says

    autotaxidermist (n.)
    1. a person who is full of himself
    2. a person stuffed with his own ego

    That suits Gilmour to a T. He was a crappy “journalist” and movie reviewer when he was on CBC, always looking for things that agreed with what he wanted, not judging things on their own merits. It’s no surprise that he acts the same way about novels written by women.

  9. miraxpath says

    Yikes! Sorry Ophelia, I didnt read carefully enough as I would have then noticed that you already posted the link.

  10. M can help you with that. says

    I wouldn’t hire Gilmour to teach literature. Sure, let professors teach what amounts to “authors this professor particularly likes” courses — as focused/special-interest/upper-division courses, where the professor’s particular focus can give the students a head start on careful analysis. Unfortunately, Gilmour doesn’t seem to be particularly good at expressing why he finds the work of particular authors worth paying attention to. And anyone who wants to teach literature should grok the role of intro courses for literature students and general-ed lit courses for non-literature students aren’t about what a particular professor most enjoys reading. They’re about reading unfamiliar texts and recognizing where, as a reader, you have to recognize where your understanding is limited by differences between your own experiences and the experiences that the text assumes you’re bringing. (Or maybe that’s my comparative lit, vs. English, background showing.)

  11. says

    He does seem, the deeper we dig, a very odd choice for teaching literature. He’s narrow, parochial, easily bored, and unwilling to learn or even to teach in the normal understanding of the word. People like that are generally hired to teach “creative writing” rather than literature – and even creative writing departments might hesitate to hire Gilmour.

    I took a writing course with someone quite Gilmouresque when I was at university. He too was quite narrow, quite blinkered, quite focused on Fitzgerald, utterly stupid about women, and quite macho-boastful in a tweedy Ivy League way – as it might be in an Armani jacket way. Oh what the hell: C.D.B. Bryan. He’d had a little hit with a tedious autobiographical Bildungsroman about his own very narrow Bildung. At that time he was writing another autobiographical novel, this time about guess what, a failing marriage midlife crisis type deal. He was, in short, interested in himself and not much else. There was a scene in the novel that he read to us, a quarrel between him I mean the protagonist and his wife, which included the line from him to her, “If you don’t want to make coffee what did you get married for?”

  12. says

    Yes; he said himself that normally you have to have a PhD but they invited him. It is indeed hard to see why. I can see thinking a working novelist could make an interesting kind of teacher of literature, but then you would want to pick a thoughtful one, not one who’s the very opposite of thoughtful.

  13. Al Dente says

    Ophelia @22

    I can see thinking a working novelist could make an interesting kind of teacher of literature, but then you would want to pick a thoughtful one, not one who’s the very opposite of thoughtful.

    Shouldn’t the self-absorbed, superficial, boorish novelists be able to trot out their “thoughts”? Or only in grad school?

  14. says

    Al – as university teachers? No. In the bar or on Facebook or in their blogs, sure, but in the front of a classroom, no.

    Of course it’s possible that I’m taking you too literally…

  15. Al Dente says

    Sorry, Ophelia. I was trying to be sardonic but fell afoul of Scalzi’s Law about the failure mode of clever.

  16. artymorty says

    I can see thinking a working novelist could make an interesting kind of teacher of literature, but then you would want to pick a thoughtful one, not one who’s the very opposite of thoughtful.

    It’s worth noting that Gilmour’s class is administered outside of the Department of English by one of U of T’s confederated Colleges, which maybe has an inherent motivation to favour name recognition over academic credibility.

    (Like Oxford, U of T operates under the old-fashioned collegiate system, whereby students enrol via Colleges, each of which markets a distinct “flavour” of university experience; e.g., The St. Michael’s College Catholic Undergrad Package!; Innis College: Do U of T The Artsy Fartsy Way!; University College: We Admitted Jews Before The Other Colleges Did!; Enrol With Victoria College: We Have Famous Alumni!, etc.)

    Seeing how the distinction between the Colleges has become largely arbitrary to most run-of-the-mill U of T students — unless you’re a Catholic or Anglican theologian, you’re going to be taking the same courses as all the other students from other Colleges: courses administered centrally by a U of T Faculty; e.g., Law, Medicine, Forestry/Lumberjacking, etc. — I can see how a recognizable name like Gilmour would appeal to the higher-ups at Victoria College as a marketing tool to distinguish their College from the others, if not much else.

    David Gilmour could never pass muster in the actual U of T Department of English, of course. They’ve said as much!

    I’ll bet U of T’s central administration is right now having serious discussions about their organizational structure, and the need for quality control over affiliated colleges’ course content.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>