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Some academics in literature apparently have a lady problem

So, so familiar, and so, so tiresome. Professor of literature at the University of Toronto David Gilmour:

I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and 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 teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.

Let me guess. He thinks his opinion of woman writers is an objective fact, and not at all colored by his own personal sexism.

Also, what kind of teacher only teaches the work he personally adores? Shouldn’t the point of a literature course be to broaden students’ minds, rather than imprisoning them in the limited scope of the instructor’s prejudices?

Comments

  1. oualawouzou says

    As a literature teacher myself, I do try to teach writers/books I love, if only because being passionate about what you’re discussing makes it more pleasant for everyone involved in the class, but I do teach works that leave me somewhat… cold if that is what is better to achieve whatever goal is set for this particular class.

    With that said, I could never consider “women writers” a meaningful label. It is absurd. Women from different countries, writing at different times of different subjects produce very different books. I’m sure this distinguished fellow would be pleased to explain at length the differences, both subtle and overt, between the works of Tolstoy and Philip Roth. That he could then turn around and lump together all women writers (except one token female) boggles the mind.

  2. consciousness razor says

    Oh, wait, wrong Gilmour.

    Big sigh of relief, right there. Okay.

    Wake me up when he stops talking about seriously heterosexual really-real manly-man dudes who are guys-guys doing lots of awesome penis-having dudely shit.

  3. says

    Only manly men can write, because as we all know, we potent writerly dudes write everything with our penises.

    I invested in some massive extra wide mouth inkwells just for that purpose.

  4. says

    David Gilmour:

    Real guy-guys.

    You’re a professor? Seriously? You could have said that you personally long for the days when men were men, a man’s man, the good old days when homosociality ruled. Then you could research those “he’s a man’s man” authors, and compare and contrast the actual lives of such authors to the characters they wrote. That at least would be honest and possibly interesting, you guy-guy, you.

  5. says

    I guess all those ladies have to start writing under a male nym again.
    I have a feeling that his students might be boooooooored.
    Once he feeds them a little Virginia Wolf in third year he has probably killed off their brains and interest in literature

  6. unclefrogy says

    isn’t this what he is saying?
    I’m the teacher I am in charge I am the authority here what I say goes.
    my sexism is right and proper! you don’t like it go take math!
    or I am the big schmuck here I teach only what I want because I know more than anyone anywhere about what I think is good and what I say is good!

    sounds like a problematic class and a problematic instructor for the administration
    uncle frogy

  7. Larry says

    If I were a professor of astronomy, my students would only learn about Mars. Venus would have to be covered in a class down the hall cause everybody knows men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

  8. burgundy says

    The inclusion of Roth was the real give-away. Literature of the penis, by the penis, and for the penis.

  9. David Marjanović says

    I invested in some massive extra wide mouth inkwells just for that purpose.

    X-)

    …Oh. Nope, I’m not clicking on the link in comment 9. :-]

  10. Rich Woods says

    @oualawouzou #3:

    but I do teach works that leave me somewhat… cold if that is what is better to achieve whatever goal is set for this particular class.

    Fair enough. Plus you might actually learn something from your students.

  11. blf says

    we potent writerly dudes write everything with our penises whilst wearing high heels, suspenders, and a bra.

  12. says

    And speaking of penises his 2nd book, 1991′s How Boys See Girls, is about an older man’s “obsessive lust” for a younger woman. Not exactly the most original theme, but probably fits into the “manly men” category.

  13. Moggie says

    Huh, never thought of literature professor as a particularly guy-guy thing. Maybe he wrestles bears at weekends?

  14. Great American Satan says

    I was wondering if Pricasso needed to stay erect the whole time for reach, but the pics clearly show he has A) no protruding belly and B) a large enough tool in that gold speedo. He’s pretty good at likenesses, too. It’s surprising to me how bad some successful artists are with that. Checka his Tony Blair.

    My favorite example of an embarrassingly macho writer who is also gay: Palahniuk. Wonder what he’d find out if he did any research on his faves?

  15. smrnda says

    I don’t teach literature, but if I did, I’d have to acknowledge that if my goal is to get students to read and to teach literature, my own personal preferences probably can’t be avoided by that teaching ‘my favorite books’ isn’t really a well-rounded class.

    All said, his list of ‘writers that matter’ makes me think this guy quit reading shortly after high school. Only Roth has even been writing (or even alive) during recent years, and these are writers that you’d probably have heard of even if you didn’t read much. Isn’t keeping up with what’s being written and finding lesser-known writers a requirement for literature professors? Lack of intellectual curiosity isn’t an admirable trait in a teacher.

  16. bcmystery says

    I didn’t know they made extra wide mouthed inkwells, but then I’ve never needed one.

    Wait.

  17. brianpansky says

    Serious heterosexual guys.

    ????

    what does all this sexual and gender stuff have to do with the writing?

    it just seems to have much to do with his colored glasses. there should be a requirement for this person to have no info about who wrote any particular piece from now on.

  18. says

    He seems to have a problem with gay male authors — never mind that it is difficult to get more many than being a man who wants other men — so no Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gore Vidal, Edward Albee, E. M. Forster, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Evelyn Waugh, Walt Whitman, Michel Foucault, W. H. Auden or Christopher Isherwood, not to mention “likely not heterosexuals” such as Julius Caesar, Honoré de Balzac, John Donne, Horace and Homer. And then there are non-heterosexual women.

    Wow, an lit professor who refuses to teach some of the most important authors of western literature. He sounds like a real prize.

  19. consciousness razor says

    I didn’t know they made extra wide mouthed inkwells, but then I’ve never needed one.

    Wait.

    You just use dark-colored paper like the rest of us, right? Don’t worry. Whatever the case may be, I’m sure your every ejaculation is special. Wouldn’t want to waste it drying up in a silly inkwell.

  20. keithm says

    >we potent writerly dudes write everything with our penises whilst wearing high heels, suspenders, and a bra.

    No, that’s British Columbian lumberjacks. Male writers do so in silk chemise and corset.

  21. RobertL says

    I wonder if he would teach the new Robert Galbraith book as a piece of popular literature? He’s a manly author writing about an ex-soldier turned private detective.

    Manly, manly stuff.

    Wait, what?

  22. stwriley says

    His definition of “guy-guy” writers seems pretty silly too, on top of the idiotic misogyny of his attitude toward female writers.

    I mean…Chekhov? A “real guy-guy”? Has he actually read anything Chekhov wrote?

  23. dianne says

    F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.

    No offense to anyone into Scott, Leo or Philip, but this guys taste in literature is AWFUL! He sounds like someone who needs to be replaced by a competent professor.

  24. playonwords says

    Not only does this idiot see virtually nothing in female writers, the male writers have to be “serious” and “heterosexual”. It might also be noted that all the writers he names share a skin colour, funny that …

  25. cicely says

    Caine, you shoulda oughta’ve put some sort of Warning on that Pricasso link. My eyes!!! That is some aggressive pinkness he’s got goin’, there.
    -

    …Oh. Nope, I’m not clicking on the link in comment 9. :-]

    If only I had had the same foresight.
    -

  26. moarscienceplz says

    Has he actually read anything Chekhov wrote?

    Matbe he meant Pavel Chekov:

    “Perhaps you have heard Russian epic of Cinderella? If shoe fits, wear it!”

    “Please, please – We’re looking for the naval base in Alameda can you tell us where the nuclear wessels are?”

    “Oh, sir, it was Khan! We picked him up on Ceti Alpha Five… He put… creatures… in our bodies… to control our minds. He made us… say lies… do things. He thought he controlled us, but he did not. The Captain was strong.”

  27. says

    I’m with Chigau (@6): How can you be talking up “…guys. Serious heterosexual guys. … Real guy-guys,” and leave out Hemingway, the Platonic ideal of manly-man writers?

    Actually, if you click through and read the story, he appears to enjoy shocking undergraduates by making them read “dirty books,” so maybe his hangup is really more about sex than about “manliness” per se? Feh.

    When I first read the extract in the OP, my reaction was that this sounds so unlike anything I ever heard a literature professor say (while getting two degrees in literature) that it must be some sort of joke or snark. Sadly, it seems not. Of course, he wasn’t trained as a lit professor: I gather he’s a writer and film critic who just sort of fell into the job of teaching lit.

    BTW, Gregory in Seattle (@25), he does at least have Capote on his bookshelf, for whatever that’s worth.

  28. cartomancer says

    I have taught the occasional literature class, albeit Classical literature and to 16-18 year olds, rather than English literature to University students. What I find is that I actually teach better when I’m teaching texts I have less of a personal fondness for, and know less well than my favourites. This is because I have to work at getting the most out of each one, and actually think about what to put across, rather than floating along on a cloud of self-generated smugness. I tend to bring in the opinions of a far wider range of scholarship on the texts in order to get some depth when I’m doing a less preferred work, and struggle to find different perspectives and ideas. This is why I tend to get better results teaching Odyssey, rather than Iliad, Herodotus rather than Thucydides, Plato rather than Aristotle and Sophocles rather than Euripides. Though I must admit that I am an Ancient and Medieval Historian by training, rather than a literary Classicist, so my approach is probably somewhat idiosyncratic.

    Ultimately it is the job of a teacher of literary studies to cover what needs covering, and their duty to cover a sufficiently broad range, not just a flight of personal whimsy. An admission that one only teaches texts one likes is pretty much an admission to not being a very good teacher at all.

  29. says

    Cicely:

    Caine, you shoulda oughta’ve put some sort of Warning on that Pricasso link. My eyes!!! That is some aggressive pinkness he’s got goin’, there.

    My apologies. The man is aggressively pink, no question.

  30. says

    Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class.

    I don’t think it is the students that Virginia Woolf is too sophisticated for.

  31. carlie says

    I’m still trying to wrap my brain around deciding to make up the syllabus based just on what I like. Unless the class is called “Dr. carlie’s favorite things”, I don’t see how there’s any pedagogical validity there. Seriously. Teaching is not about you. He should have never gotten that through a curriculum committee.

  32. doublereed says

    Man, I have always been confused by people’s bizarre ideas of masculinity.

    But technically I don’t think there’s anything wrong if the guy is just teaching his class some books that he thinks are awesome. I would think we want professors to be able to have a good amount of academic freedom.

    That being said, the man clearly has issues, and I wouldn’t be comfortable in his class if I was a homosexual or woman. Like wtf is this guy’s problem?

  33. otrame says

    What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.

    This reminds me of what, if memory serves, would be an extremely dated movie from the late 60s/early 70s. I know longer remember it’s name. The only reason I remember it at all is that 1) Elliot Gould was in it; 2) the aphorism “Don’t try to hold back the hands of the clock–it will rip your arms off” always appealed to me and 3) my favorite limerick.

    Gould plays a American Lit grad student who, at his dissertation defense, was challenged by an flamingly obvious gay professor who wanted him to agree that F. Scott Fitzgerald was gay. Gould, for reasons that don’t actually make any sense except in relation to the specific time, culture-wise, blows his top, and proceeds to declaim:

    One day, gay F. Scott in his gloom
    Took a lesbian up to his room.
    They fought half the night
    Over who had the right
    To do what and with which and to whom.

    He then leaves and doesn’t get his PhD and that is supposed to be good, for reasons that, again, depend very much on the specific time, culture-wise.

    Silly movie. But the clock aphorism and that great limerick have kept it in my memory.

  34. carlie says

    I would think we want professors to be able to have a good amount of academic freedom.

    But they still need to meet the objectives for the class. Academic freedom doesn’t mean “I’ll do whatever the hell I feel like and you can’t stop me”. And I can’t imagine a valid curriculum that is “I’m going to exclude all the authors I don’t like, and the ones that are my favorites make some kind of coherent whole by any measure except in my own brain”.

  35. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Like wtf is this guy’s problem?

    I think it’s the same problem the guys who must have only old white males speak at atheist cons. A contralto woman’s voice is too high to be heard….

  36. says

    doublereed:

    I would think we want professors to be able to have a good amount of academic freedom.

    So you want professors to have the freedom to not teach. Yeah, that’s helpful. A student noted on the rate my prof link, that he opens his class with “If I don’t like you, you will fail.” That, along with his refusal to actually teach literature doesn’t speak well of Mr. Gilmour.

  37. dean says

    But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love

    I’m guessing he didn’t tell them then about just which small subset of authors met his approval – I hope he didn’t tell them and still get hired.
    It would be interesting to see the reactions on student faces when he tells them why he doesn’t discuss any women.

    And, although I realize I am off the joke of the inkwell thing, don’t diminish the real ones: I still use fountain pens to write lecture notes for myself, outlines, letters, and the running journals I keep for my sons. Inkwells are a blessing.

  38. toro says

    A guess:

    He’s including Virginia Woolf only because it wouldn’t be guy-guyly to seem to be afraid of her?

  39. reasonbe says

    1. Tenure
    2. Perhaps his course was upper level, addressing a specific style or genre, and so named. If his was a lit survey course, he should have his office locks changed.

  40. carlie says

    I still use fountain pens to write lecture notes for myself, outlines, letters, and the running journals I keep for my sons. Inkwells are a blessing.

    I reserve my fountain pen for grading, because then I have something to look forward to. “I have to grade, but then again, I get to use the fountain pen…”

    Perhaps his course was upper level, addressing a specific style or genre, and so named.

    But there isn’t a single legitimate genre or style that entirely excludes women.

  41. kantalope says

    I wonder if his biases include essays written by….say, female students. What are the chances of that?

  42. says

    kantalope

    One of the reviews in the link @#29 mentions that it’s “Painfully obvious that he favours the guys in the class.”

    Surprised?

  43. Stacy says

    Only manly men can write, because as we all know, we potent writerly dudes write everything with our penises.

    I invested in some massive extra wide mouth inkwells just for that purpose

    Norman Mailer actually said something very close to that once, and Cynthia Ozick called him on it, memorably.

    This question, I have been fantasizing it for many many years, since Advertisements for Myself. Only I always thought it would take place at the Y, now it’s here. This is the truth, this is a fantasy, this is my moment to live out a fantasy. Mr. Mailer, in Advertisements for Myself, you said, “A good novelist can do without everything but the remnant of his balls.” For years and years I’ve been wondering, Mr. Mailer, when you dip your balls in ink, what color ink is it?

    I did not realize til I Googled to find the quotation that her question was actually immortalized on film!

    http://coreyrobin.com/2013/03/30/mr-mailer-when-you-dip-your-balls-in-ink-what-color-ink-is-it/

  44. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    Least convincing excuse/disclaimer of the month, if not the year:

    It was a careless choice of words. I’m not a politician, I’m a writer.

    That from an interview he gave the National Post, trying to defend himself on the grounds that he wasn’t paying attention at the first interview, and besides, he really likes Woolf.

  45. Stacy says

    “There isn’t a racist or a sexist bone in my body”

    Of course not, dude. You’re just only interested in, you can only “love,” writers who resemble you. Nothin’ racist or sexist about that!

    Owait….

    (Seriously people need to learn that none of us is a very good judge of the extent of our own racism and sexism. Those are cognitive biases–mostly invisible to us unless we’re aware of them and vigilant about noticing them.)

  46. says

    I wonder if he ever read Dorothy Sayers’ essay Are Women human? Is he assuming that women authors only write specifically about women’s experiences?

    Maybe he’d like George Sand, George Eliot, A.N. Barnard, Currer Bell, or Isak Dinesen?

  47. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Maybe he’d like George Sand, George Eliot, A.N. Barnard, Currer Bell, or Isak Dinesen?

    Or as a mystery fan, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Elizableth George, Faye Kellerman, JA Jance, Martha Grimes, et al., with male protagonists. But I suspect the female protagonist is just so much noise to our “Professor”.

  48. A. Noyd says

    Vicki (#59)

    Least convincing excuse/disclaimer of the month, if not the year:

    It was a careless choice of words. I’m not a politician, I’m a writer.

    Writing being a profession where no one much cares about careful word choice.

  49. doublereed says

    But they still need to meet the objectives for the class. Academic freedom doesn’t mean “I’ll do whatever the hell I feel like and you can’t stop me”. And I can’t imagine a valid curriculum that is “I’m going to exclude all the authors I don’t like, and the ones that are my favorites make some kind of coherent whole by any measure except in my own brain”.

    Uhh… really? If it’s a pretty narrow elective class then I can see that. It’s not like he has to specifically exclude anything, he just has to only pick the ones he wants. Would be nice if he labeled his class “Douchebag McGee’s Manly Man Literature Hour.”

    Shrug, I don’t know how these things work. It sounds like he’s just a shit teacher, anyway. I particularly liked the line that talking to a classroom is the same as talking to a camera.

  50. says

    A. Noyd:

    Writing being a profession where no one much cares about careful word choice.

    Puts me in mind of: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

  51. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    I’m fascinated by the intersection between oblectivity (such as it is) and subjectivity. His enjoyment of those authors is purely subjective, and as such is unassailable. He gets to like what he likes. But it seems to me that any teacher who cannot step far enough back from that subjective judgement to see that others can find value in works that they dislike is a piss poor educator.

  52. Artor says

    This was very kind of Gilmour. Rather than just stating publicly, “I’m a shitty professor and a toxic human being,” he went the extra mile and made it clear exactly WHY he is such a shitbag. You don’t often see that kind of consideration outside of televangelists and Teabagging Congressmen. And now, of course, this is attached to his name on the internet forever, saving years of future students the trouble of finding this out the hard way. Way to go David Gilmour!

  53. congenital cynic says

    I always found Henry Miller to be a dickhead. But then I don’t find the “guy’s guy” appealing. I find most men who fit that description to be dickheads. And I loved the several Ursula LeGuin books I’ve read. So maybe I’m not a real man. Oh sigh. How can I go on not being a “guy’s guy”? Because his “identifying” with only male authors says nothing about the quality of their writing. Read Possession by A. S. Byatt and tell me only men can write.

    This prof is a bit of a self-centered ass, and perhaps blinded by his sense of what has literary merit. Irrespective of that, we in the academy teach a curriculum, not our personal preferences. If I was teaching only my preferences, my university classes would change rather a lot. Yeah, he’s a dickhead too.

  54. congenital cynic says

    @25 I totally didn’t think about that list of gay authors. Some of the best books I’ve read in my life were written by that crew. Evelyn Waugh alone would tip the scales. What a douche of a prof.

  55. kevskos says

    From the article

    I teach modern short fiction to third and first-year students.

    I would not consider any of the authors he lists except for Roth as modern short fiction writers. Modern fiction, to me, means written after WWII and that is starting to stretch it. He should be teaching much newer fiction, people like Sandra Cisneros. Sounds like he is teaching them 19th century and early 20th century short fiction by men with one token woman.

  56. tariqata says

    Before you even get to the bit where he declares that books written by women (and anyone else who he doesn’t believe is exactly like him) just don’t interest him, there’s this:

    I’m a natural teacher, I was trained in television for many years. I know how to talk to a camera, therefore I know how to talk to a room of students. It’s the same thing.

    Ever since I read the interview earlier today, I’ve been feeling profoundly thankful that when I took a course in modern Western literature in my first year at U of T, it wasn’t with this guy. And also thankful that all of my high school and university literature teachers thought it was actually their duty to stretch their students’ horizons, not impose their own limits.

  57. Ingdigo Jump says

    It’s nice that he handed his female and gay students a good method for arguing for a better grade and/or a diescrimination suit!

  58. carlie says

    It’s not like he has to specifically exclude anything, he just has to only pick the ones he wants.

    Ideally, the syllabus and reading list would go through a curriculum committee, who would look at it and tell him he had to include a larger variety of authors or, of not, change the name of the class to accurately reflect its narrowness so as not to give false advertising to the students.

    I know how to talk to a camera, therefore I know how to talk to a room of students. It’s the same thing.

    Ho-ly crap. I bet his ability to interact with students is legendary, given that he sees them all as inanimate objects.

  59. congenital cynic says

    I didn’t read his whole interview. Had enough crap to deal with today. But as someone who talks to a class every day, and who has only talked to a television camera three times, I’d say that in my experience they are not at all the same. You feel something from your students. They respond, and they are animated. The camera is a dead and passive thing from which there is no response. Ah! But maybe he gets the “dead and passive” non-response from his students because he’s such a poor teacher. There, that might explain it.

  60. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Maybe Toronto could trade him down to Chester County, Pennsylvania. I understand they have a vacancy in the school system. Down there, he’d be an improvement!

  61. says

    tariqata @ 73:

    And also thankful that all of my high school and university literature teachers thought it was actually their duty to stretch their students’ horizons, not impose their own limits.

    Bang, nail on the head. That’s exactly what good teachers do, and Mr. Gilmour isn’t just letting his students down, he’s letting down all the teachers out there who work their asses off to expand the minds of their students.

  62. karmacat says

    Okay, someone is insecure about his manly manhood. He is going out of his way to claim he doesn’t want to teach about women writers. As the joke goes, Mr. Gilmour says one thing but really means his mother

  63. says

    In my favorite Andrea Dworkin* book, “Right Wing Women,” there’s a great section where she compares, side-by-side, excerpts from female authors like Marabel Morgan and male authors like Norman Mailer. And they were saying the Exact Same Thing. Except, of course, the female authors were considered stupid and silly and contemptible, while the male authors were masters of language and brilliant and thoughtful. Happily, there are parts of her books that are definitely dated, things that have gotten better (marital rape laws, for one)…but it’s still depressing to see how much attitudes haven’t changed since ’80s.

    This professor perfectly illustrates the necessity of “Women’s Literature” or “Ethnic Literature” classes, but I hope that soon all lit courses will be so integrated as to make those classes unnecessary, except perhaps for specific types of female writers or writers of color, as they do for other (usually higher-level) literature courses. As a few have said higher up, it’s ridiculous to group all women writers together, as though they all wrote the same way. I was so irritated in school when I took a “multi-Ethnic Literature class,” partially because I expected to get exposure to writers from around the world and it was instead entirely American writers (which was not in the course description, and the main reason I took the class), but also because many of the writers were pillars of American literature, and I thought it was so dismissive to shove them all into one course, instead of teaching them in a basic American Literature course (which was, of course, required, unlike the elective “ethnic lit” class). It also made showed me how incredibly bereft the main American Lit class had been! (Much like this professor’s classes, I assume?)

    Also, I hate to say it, but especially when I was younger, I always preferred women writers. I came to dread reading the required novels by men when I was in Jr. High and High School, mostly because they were almost always about stuff I had exactly zero interest in, like a relationships between a man or boy and an animal (that was sure to die at the end), and had pages of useless description and exposition. Give me a Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte any day. When I got older, I found male authors I liked far better than the ones we read in school (James Baldwin!), but that’s how I felt growing up. Of course, I was repeatedly told by teachers that I had “immature” taste because of that!

    *I know, I know, as a good Internet Feminist, I’m supposed to disavow Dworkin and loudly declare that She Doesn’t Represent Real Feminists…but fuck it. I think her books are brilliant.

  64. Al Dente says

    Tolstoy and Chekhov are modern authors? Only if your idea of modern goes back to before World War I.

  65. says

    Carlie:

    Ho-ly crap. I bet his ability to interact with students is legendary, given that he sees them all as inanimate objects.

    I doubt he realizes how problematic this is – note he didn’t even say “I know how to talk to an audience.” He has completely removed the human part of it all. I’ve never done television, however, as a photographer, one thing you do realize is that being behind a lens distances you from your subject, and that alone can be problematic, so you need to keep that in mind and remember to view things and people sans the lens, so you keep the humanity in your work. Okay, that’s working up to be a derail, so I’ll end with this: I agree with you, Carlie, and I imagine he’s someone who simply likes hearing himself talk.

  66. John Pieret says

    “Professor” of literature … Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer …

    Uh huh! Literature … riiiight!

    Emily Dickinson for just one example … if you are not ‘interested’ … that whole “Professor” of literature is a sham.

  67. kantalope says

    @57 Daz: I am shocked shocked I tells you to find out that he doesn’t respect his female students.

    @76 Carlie: Only if the course is listed as: Dead White Dudes a Retro-Retrospective. Literature of dead white guys taught as a historical reenactment of a 1950′s sausage-fest.

  68. loopyj says

    Item 1. There’s no such thing as a ‘woman writer’ or ‘women writers’. There are simply writers, some of who are female. (We don’t refer to a male writer as a ‘man writer’.)

    Item 2. Gilmour is a lecherous old blowhard. He loves the sound of his own voice. I lived in the same neighbourhood as Gilmour twenty years ago and occasionally occupied the same check-out lines or aisles in grocery stores, and given the creepy way he would smile at me and stare at my breasts, I would hate to think how uncomfortable he probably makes the female students who attend his lectures.

  69. robro says

    Otrame — The movie is Getting Straight and the scene immediately sprang to my mind as well. Incidentally, I believe John Kerry makes a brief appearance in the film as a Vietnam vet against the war, but maybe that was The Strawberry Statement.

    What also came to mind is how many of those manly-man writers that he cites were actually manly-men. None of them seem to fit that type. And in case, what sort of description of a writer is that? And the one I would most expect to be on such a list, Hemingway, is not there. Curious.

  70. Zigbot says

    Erin (formerly EEB) — I vividly remember reading that passage from Right Wing Women that you quoted. This was right after I’d finished Joanna Russ’ “How to Suppress Women’s Writing” and I was horrified that as a modern 20-something, I had no idea who any of those women writers were. Now granted, I’m not super literary (I’m more of a genre fiction lover), but I knew all about Norman Mailer and DH Laurence even if I had never actually read their books. Those men are still famous now, but the women are forgotten, or at the very least obscure. This is how literary canon becomes such a sausage-fest in the first place. Casual dismissal of women’s writing leads to its obscurity, and then its gradual disappearance into obscurity, so that eventually only a few token undeniably brilliant women writers are remembered along with the men of their era. Chilling.

    And now here’s this douchey professor, demonstrating exactly how to accelerate that process in the worst possibly way. He’s only able to personally identify with authors who share his exact demographics, so he purposefully leaves his students ignorant of the books written by women and POC. And he’s proud of it! Gross.

  71. sigurd jorsalfar says

    I once saw David Gilmour crossing against the light on a busy street about 20 years ago. A driver turning left almost hit him and angrily honked his horn at him. Gilmour, grinning like a dope, kept on walking. He’s a bit of a hapless individual.

  72. says

    sigurd:

    He’s a bit of a hapless individual.

    That’s a bit like assigning a blatant instance of sexism on being socially awkward. It’s quite clear, from what Mr. Gilmour has written and said that he’s deliberate in his biases.

  73. Pteryxx says

    http://www.salon.com/2013/09/25/canadian_novelist_backpedals_on_sexism_charge_is_still_sexist/

    After facing backlash, Gilmour has issued an apology via the National Post, though he was “absolutely surprised” by the critical reception of his comments.

    “I’m absolutely surprised, but I’m also extremely sorry to hear that there are people who are really offended by it. I’ve been getting some letters this morning from people who are deeply, racially, ethnically, and intellectually offended by this,” he said.

    Then began the mansplaining…

    He may have filled a notpology bingo card in a single go. …Or he may have been cribbing from one.

    Direct link to Gilmour’s statement:

    http://arts.nationalpost.com/2013/09/25/david-gilmour-there-isnt-a-racist-or-a-sexist-bone-in-my-body/

    Oh, I can think of one… his solid skull.

  74. says

    Pteryxx:

    Oh, I can think of one… his solid skull.

    My first thought on reading there isn’t a racist or sexist bone in my body was quite crude, given how important being a superduperheterosexual guy-guy is to him. I’d say any boner on the part of Mr. Gilmour is pretty dependent on sexism.

  75. Ichthyic says

    If he’s doing guy-guys, where’s Hemingway?

    my thoughts exactly. dude does strike one as being a potential fan of Hemingway.

    btw… what happened to old Hemingway?

    oh yeah…

    real manly man, that Hemingway.

    phht.

    to be sure, my least favorite of all the “between the wars” writers.

  76. says

    Ever since I read the interview earlier today, I’ve been feeling profoundly thankful that when I took a course in modern Western literature in my first year at U of T, it wasn’t with this guy.

    QFT. my one English Lit class was focused on 20th century american lit, and we read authors like Nella Larsen, Willa Cather, Louise Erdrich, Anzia Yezierska, Pietro Di Donato, Younghill Kang, etc. (I’m sure there were some WASP straight dudes in there too, but I can’t recall any right now).

  77. says

    er. I didn’t go to U fo T; but universities in the prairies are prefectly capable of providing non-racist, non-sexist, non-homophobic English (or American) Lit classes; even ones as unknown as mine, in as racist, sexist, and homophobic a state as ND. So U of T basically has no excuse here.

  78. KRS says

    Well, I had to read Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” as a third-year college student in a survey course in modern English (meaning UK) literature, and I did struggle with it a little bit. But I didn’t have a problem with that. Part of teaching literature is helping your students develop more sophisticated tastes by grappling with more complicated works. And oh, BTW, the Modern Period, at least in British literary history, is considered to roughly cover the first half of the 20th Century, sometimes extending as far back as the 1880s or ’90s. Here’s a little essay on the Modern Period: http://www.online-literature.com/periods/modernism.php

    As for Gilmour, his particular selection of male authors and their works adds to the insult of his exclusion of women. Apparently, his students have to appreciate Henry Miller’s and Philip Roth’s chronicles of sex because they’ve “been around for 60 years” and “must have something going for them.” However, the works of female authors apparently never have anything going for them, even if they’ve stood the test of time for decades. Also, I’m pretty sure Philip Roth wrote some stuff that wasn’t centered on sex, but it sounds like Gilmour picked the his nastiest sexual novel for his class, possibly to shock his female students?

  79. says

    So he teaches books with some aggressively shocking (in the shock-jock sense) sexuality in it, but he’s got too sensitive a soul to get out of his own comfort zone and teach something by someone who’s not like him? weaksauce (and wanna bet that he doesn’t “love” a lot of the non-straight, non-dudely writing because he can’t stomach the way sex is portrayed in them?)

  80. karpad says

    F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.

    uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. Is this course “Destruction of Love of Reading 101″ or “Self-Importance via namedropping 155?”

    You could not pick a more boring list of authors. This is the “hey, people have heard of these! It’ll show I’m super-serious!” list.

    First of all, unless you’re also teaching Russian, you aren’t reading Chekhov or Tolstoy. You’re reading Chekhov or Tolstoy IN TRANSLATION. Which is fine, but if you’re bringing translation into this, you have no excuse for limiting your list to something that… dull.

    I mean, even if you’re really dedicated to keeping your list ONLY DUDES PLZKTHX, Stephen Vizinczey, Ismail Kadare, Italo Calvino, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Yasunari Kawabata exist. And that’s just what I can see on my bookshelf from here.

    But there’s really no excuse for saying “Virginia Woolf is the only good female author” or anything to that effect. The Nobel committee disagrees with you on that, since at least 1909. It’d be a pretty easy syllabus to lay out, but “Women with Nobels for literature” would at least fill a semester at almost any year level. Actually thinking about it, I can’t imagine why any lit department on the continent wouldn’t have that course.

  81. says

    karpad:

    I mean, even if you’re really dedicated to keeping your list ONLY DUDES PLZKTHX, Stephen Vizinczey, Ismail Kadare, Italo Calvino, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Yasunari Kawabata exist.

    José Saramago.

  82. Nick Gotts says

    Maybe he wrestles bears at weekends? – Moggie@20

    Female bears only, of course. Physical contact with another male, closer or more prolonged than a manly handshake, would just destroy his guy-guy cred.

  83. says

    From the follow-up interview:

    For example, I have a degree in French Literature, and I speak French fluently

    Quite frankly, I was speaking to a Frenchman, so I was more concerned with my French than I was with what I was saying to this young woman.

    He speaks French so fluently that he needs all his brain-cells for speaking it…

    But I’m going to cry “misandry!!!!!!!!!!!!” about his mansplaining. Seriously, he can’t get passionate and teach anything about people whose lives are not like his (how close is his life to Tolstoi’s, I wonder)? But I guess his female, his non-white or not hetero, non cis students still have to be able to understand that. Funny how everybody can be expected to understand white, heterosexual cis-guys but those poor puppies only have the brains to understand people like themselves.

  84. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.

    Well, that lets out a lot of people, then, doesn’t it? Are Japanese people OK with this “fellow”? I’m thinking Lady Murasaki, considered by some to be the first novelist, working 1000 to 1014 AD or so. Oh, wait, sorry, female.
    The fail on that man is really remarkable.

  85. robyn slinger says

    So he teaches about “serious heterosexual guys”, and (in the linked article) he claims being a fan of Marcel Proust?

    Well, maybe he doesn’t teach about Proust. And the Wikipedia entry says nothing about him not being a serious author, either.

  86. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    Giliell #106

    Funny how everybody can be expected to understand white, heterosexual cis-guys but those poor puppies only have the brains to understand people like themselves.

    An occupation that appears, fortunately, to require few brains, or these fellows would be found wandering the streets at all hours, bleating quietly for help when crossing the more complicated intersections.

  87. carlie says

    I do love that the Salon article Pteryxx linked to in 93 doesn’t give him any wiggle room, starting right with the title.

    Seriously. Saying “I can only really teach about people who are just like me” is admitting that you’re a really shitty teacher.

  88. scimaths says

    But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love

    So why was he even given the job in the first place ? That’s the worrying thing, university hiring policy is that they will employ yet another two-bit closed-minded arrogant white boy and exclude much better and more interesting teachers in the process.

  89. Moggie says

    Lyn M:

    Well, that lets out a lot of people, then, doesn’t it? Are Japanese people OK with this “fellow”? I’m thinking Lady Murasaki, considered by some to be the first novelist, working 1000 to 1014 AD or so.

    To be fair, The Tale of Genji isn’t really a good fit for a modern literature class. For modern non-dudely Japanese writers, try Miri Yu or Banana Yoshimoto.

  90. doubter says

    Some of you have posted about encountering Gilmour in person. My main recollection of him comes from watching Gilmour On the Arts, his old CBC show. He used to have a woman on for a regular review segment. What bothered me was the big deal Gilmour made about her looks at the beginning of the segment. He would joke about her having stepped off the runway to appear on the show, and so forth. She would have this look on her face that I interpreted as “I hate this, but I need the work”, and would then proceed with her review. I guess it bothered me enough that it has stayed in my mind for the last two decades…

  91. says

    holy crap. I’m so used to “I only like stuff by people who are exactly like me” being (usually very blatantly, but still) implied that I didn’t notice that, according to the salon piece in #93, he actually, literally said that:

    [Interviewer Emily M. Keeler] said, “Gee, there aren’t a lot of women here.” And I said, “No, I tend to teach people whose lives are a lot like my own, because that’s what I understand best, and that’s what I teach best.”

    Also, I call bullshit on his life being “a lot like” the life of the Russian Serious Dudes he so admires.

  92. says

    What I am is I’m a middle-aged writer and I’m very interested in the middle-aged writers experience.

    women. they don’t do middle-age. or maybe they just don’t write while middle-aged. who knows.

  93. says

    That thing he wrote as an “explanation” of his BS is really not making him look better:

    And a lot of these people on my list, from [Anton] Chekhov to Fitzgerald to Henry Miller to Philip Roth, these are all people who write not just about being middle-aged, but about middle-aged writers, and that’s a subject I feel deeply and can speak passionately about.

    so basically he wants to talk about himself? And he thinks he’s not going to look like a narcissistic ass when he says that he himself is a subject that he is passionate about? ok then.

    I don’t want my reputation, which is impeccable as a teacher, to be besmirched in any way.

    Impeccable, you say? hmm…. http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=1291693 (read the comments)

    Almost all my students are girls.

    reminder: he teaches 1st and 3rd year college students. you know, adults.

    I don’t want my teaching reputation besmirched by that, and I don’t want people not buying my book because they think that’s the position I hold in the world. Because I’ve just written a book in which the principal narrator is a woman.

    dude who says he doesn’t love women writers because they’re too unlike him and he doesn’t have the ability of teaching them writes a book with a female main character. What are the chances she’s not a stereotype cardboard cutout?

  94. wondering says

    This is a small, small thing that bugs me comparatively, but:

    This guy teaches lit at a Canadian university. But not only are his authors all male, and all white, none of the white males he deigns to teach happens to include a single Canadian author. Brits, Americans, Russians, but no Canadians make the cut.

    If he’s going to name drop “serious, guy-guy” white authors, can’t he even be bothered to include Pierre Burton? I mean, he’s made it clear that Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro don’t have the requisite body parts, and that Joseph Boyden and Lawrence Hill aren’t the right hue, but apparently there is also something wrong with Canadian white males too.

  95. says

    Good point, wondering. I obtained a compendium of short stories by Canadian authors recently, and they were all quite good. But then, although I love reading, I’m not an aficionado.

  96. Pteryxx says

    dude who says he doesn’t love women writers because they’re too unlike him and he doesn’t have the ability of teaching them writes a book with a female main character. What are the chances she’s not a stereotype cardboard cutout?

    A stereotype cardboard cutout with “Get out of Sexism Free Card!” handwritten on the back, natch.

  97. iankoro says

    @#117
    >This guy teaches lit at a Canadian university.

    Not just any Canadian university, the same one Margaret Atwood teaches at. I’m sure she’d have a bone to pick with him (and I don’t doubt they know each other).

  98. Rey Fox says

    And a lot of these people on my list, from [Anton] Chekhov to Fitzgerald to Henry Miller to Philip Roth, these are all people who write not just about being middle-aged, but about middle-aged writers, and that’s a subject I feel deeply and can speak passionately about.

    I thought one of the big digs on Stephen King was that he wrote too many writer characters. And I thought one of the goals of literature classes was to get the students to be less up their own asses. Adulthood continues to disappoint me.

  99. says

    Ever notice how when dudes read books about dudes “just like them” doing stuff they’d like to do it’s called “identification” and we take it as a serious thing in literature and a mark of good writing, and when women and girls read books about women and girls doing stuff they’d like to do it’s disparaged as “wish fulfillment” and treated as being self-evidently a mark of both stupid readers and terrible writing?

  100. pacal says

    What is amusing is that he teaches Miller as one of the writers he “loves”, and dismisses Women writers with only one tiny exception. Is he seriously saying that Miller is a “great” writer? Miller was a good writer who found fame and fortune shocking people. His actual writing is competent not brilliant. The fact that Gilmour boosts Miller doesn’t exactly say a lot about his taste that is positive. Margaret Atwood for one is easily a better writer than Miller.

    I also thought all the “Guy” stuff was childish adolescent pap.

  101. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Forgive me if this is stretching the edges of the topic, but I think this guy needs to meet the Bronte sisters in action.

    The fact that “Bronte” means “thunder” never crosses my mind when talking about them by the way. I never think, “God, I would love to take a class called: Novels of the Thunder Sisters! And think how many guys would sign up that wouldn’t if you called them the Brontes?”

    Seriously. Going to a con in Thunder Sister cosplay? More awesome than I can stand.

  102. nich says

    @The Monitors:

    Is douche considered a gendered insult? I know that douching itself is frowned upon as an unhealthy activity primarily designed to make a woman’s nether regions more “male friendly”, and one could argue that is a possible way the insult could be taken, i.e., you’re more worthless than the act of douching, but I’m almost positive it is more its connections to icky girly parts from which it earned its inclusion in the insult pantheon, i.e., you’re worse than that thing chicks use to clean their smelly vaginas.

  103. Dave says

    As a deeply embarrassed doctoral candidate in the English Department here at the University of Toronto, please let me say that Mr. Gilmour does not represent the views or the quality of the faculty in the department. I speak only for myself, but I’d be shocked if any member of the faculty or any of the graduate students here disagreed with me. The acting chair of the English Department has disavowed Gilmour’s comments, calling his views “ill-informed and offensive.” Other professors in the department, who possess real PhDs in literature, have written similar responses.

    This is not a case where a dottering, tenured professor can get away with saying anything. Gilmour is not a member of the English Department faculty. He does not have tenure. He is a visiting professor appointed because he is a prize-winning novelist—a not-unusual practice in English Departments across North America. But in this case, it is clear that Gilmour does not possess either the mindset or the critical skills to serve as a professor of literature. (I’m not familiar with his writing—I’m a medievalist—so I can’t judge that, but his writing skills don’t matter; this is about his teaching, not his writing.)

    If there is an institutional fault here, it’s in the practice of hiring writers as visiting professors. But the vast majority of such appointments are of value to the students, the university, and the writer. This was just a bad appointment. Clearly, at the very least U of T needs terminate Gilmour’s contract at the earliest practical moment and review its screening process for such visiting professorships.

  104. chigau (違う) says

    nich #126
    Douching is at least useless, at worst harmful.
    Calling someone a douche is calling them the same.

  105. chris61 says

    I honestly don’t see the problem. Gilmour didn’t denigrate female, Chinese or Canadian writers – he said he teaches what he loves and what he loves are middle age male writers because he relates to them. There appear to be literally hundreds of English courses at U of T and this dude teaches a few elective seminars at one college. It would seem that U of T English students who don’t like Gilmour’s choice of authors to teach have plenty of other options.

  106. says

    chris61

    I have no problem with Gilmore preferring one set of authors over another. That’s not the issue. The issue isn’t what he reads. It’s what he teaches. Or refuses to teach. His job is to teach literature, not “this narrow strand of literature that I like.”

    Would you employ a teacher of 20th Century history, who refused to mention the second world war because they, personally, found it uninteresting?

  107. says

    Well, if a dude doesn’t see the problem with a dude lit prof refusing to teach non-dude authors then I guess there isn’t any problem, right? Issue settled!

    /sarcasm

  108. chris61 says

    Daz

    It would appear his job is to teach a couple of elective courses on literature that’s of interest to him. As long as that’s spelled out in the course description, as I said, I don’t see the problem.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with a teacher of 20th century history who refused to mention WWII as long as his or her course description didn’t imply that the course would cover all of the major historical events of the century.

  109. tariqata says

    chris61: As already noted by others in this thread, the issue isn’t that Gilmour likes what he likes, but that he only teaches what he likes. And if he were teaching a course called “Books David Gilmour Loves”, even that would be okay, I suppose. Or even, “Love, Sex and Death in Modern Short Fiction that David Gilmour Loves.” However, if the course is supposed to be a broader examination of literature, the material should perhaps not be limited to the apparently narrow range of authors to whose work Gilmour claims to ‘relate’.

  110. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    I’ve kind of been lurking here. I recently have discovered that my bookshelves (and CD shelves) are full of works by men, with very few contributions by women, and NO contributions by trans* people. This isn’t good. I’m looking to broaden my literary horizons. I just* started to read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale. If anyone has any suggestions about really excellent** modern non-male writers, I am all eyeballs.
     
    I know that I could google it, but I’m interested in what this commenatriat thinks in particular.

    *Like, yesterday
    **I’m snobby. Not really into genre fiction.

  111. A. Noyd says

    chris61 (#132)

    I wouldn’t have a problem with a teacher of 20th century history who refused to mention WWII as long as his or her course description didn’t imply that the course would cover all of the major historical events of the century.

    How in the name of everloving fuck could a teacher competently teach 20th century history without mentioning WWII? That’s not a thing that’s possible considering how much of 20th century WWII affected. Any students in that class would end up getting robbed.

  112. Howard Bannister says

    The fact that “Bronte” means “thunder” never crosses my mind when talking about them by the way. I never think, “God, I would love to take a class called: Novels of the Thunder Sisters! And think how many guys would sign up that wouldn’t if you called them the Brontes?”

    Holy FUCK I would take that class.

  113. Howard Bannister says

    “20th century history”

    “Well, guys, that course title doesn’t at ALL imply we’ll touch on World War II. We’ve got way more important things to cover! Like… hmm, the Civil War, I like that. Wrong century, you say? Pffffft. Details!”

  114. doublereed says

    chris61

    I would also like to add that such comments would certainly make me uncomfortable if I was in his class, and I’m a heterosexual man. But I’d be concerned that I would be treated poorly if I didn’t appreciate his brand of “masculinity.”

  115. tariqata says

    Antiochus Epiphanes @ 134:

    I am into genre fiction, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt, but I recommend Anne Michaels (Fugitive Pieces), Margaret Gibson (Opium Dreams), and Anita Rau Badami (The Hero’s Walk). I’ve also enjoyed Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things).

  116. chris61 says

    A. Noyd (#135)
    They certainly would if it was the only 20th century history course they ever took but if it was one of several they might find it an interesting perspective.

  117. A. Noyd says

    chris61 (#140)

    They certainly would if it was the only 20th century history course they ever took but if it was one of several they might find it an interesting perspective.

    If you’re calling it a “20th century history class” then you have mention WWII or you’re necessarily giving students an incorrect understanding of what went down during that century. It would be like teaching “organic chemistry” without mentioning oxygen, FFS. It doesn’t matter how many other classes they’re taking; you can’t remove WWII from 20th century history and you can’t remove oxygen from o-chem because they’re just too important to understanding their respective subjects.

    Now, doing a class on some very limited part of 20th century history without any focus on WWII would work. But that wouldn’t be “20th century history,” it would be “such-and-such event in the 20th century.” And you’d still have to mention WWII when appropriate, which might turn out to be a lot, even if the event happened before WWI, because history is nothing if you don’t tie prior events to what came after.

  118. says

    chris61

    Please name me one even vaguely modern (ie, not ancient celtic mythology or such) major genre/strand of literature which you would feel you had treated fairly if you hadn’t mentioned a female author.

  119. sprocket says

    Shouldn’t the point of a literature course be to broaden students’ minds, rather than imprisoning them in the limited scope of the instructor’s prejudices?

    I wish I had more literature professors like PZ Myers. It’s not like I expect nothing but Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea — though that would be reason enough to take the course. ;)

  120. chris61 says

    Daz (#142)

    I’m not an English teacher and wouldn’t know where to begin teaching literature.
    This is Gilmour’s 3rd year course description:
    Love, sex and death in short fiction
    This course will examine how a variety of international authors, both nineteenth century and modern, handle the themes of mortality, sexual passion and love in their short fiction. [ It then goes on to mention the particular works that will be discussed.]

    Of course another instructor might use a completely different (maybe even an all female) set of authors to explore the same themes but since the list of authors and works is listed in the course description I still don’t see why this is inappropriate or unfair.

  121. doublereed says

    @chris61

    Actually, if that’s the theme of the class, then I find it to be completely absurd to not have female authors. To have a class about “love, sex, and death” without ANY female authors???? That’s indefensible! That’s half the story!

  122. fernando says

    His loss.
    There are an enormous number of women writers, and if that “teacher” choose to not even try to read the works of some women writers is his problema…
    But is despicable if he tries to infect his students with his gynophobia.

    Florbela Espanca, Sophya de Mello Breyner Andresen, Natália Correia, Agustina Bessa-Luís, if he actively chooses to not even trying to read some works of this writers (among many others, Ancient and Modern, writers of prose or verse)) he is a fool.

  123. says

    This course will examine how a variety selection of international authors that is restricted by gender, nationality, and race, both nineteenth century and modern, handle the themes of mortality, sexual passion and love in their short fiction.

    His course description was inaccurate. I fixed it.

    And yes, if he is attempting to explore sex, love, and death, talking only about the male perspective will restrict his exploration to the point of handicapping it. Especially considering that historically, it is the male perspective that has been considered to the exclusion of the female perspective.

  124. says

    Of course another instructor might use a completely different (maybe even an all female) set of authors to explore the same themes but since the list of authors and works is listed in the course description I still don’t see why this is inappropriate or unfair.

    Seriously, Chris. Are you 13 or something? Never really been out in the wide, wide world? A course that considered the same thing but using a selection of only female authors would not be taught as “literature.” It would be taught as “women’s literature.”

    To teach a course with only male authors when there are many important female authors who have written on the subject being taught, and NOT to bill it as “men’s literature” but simply as “literature” is to continue to misogynist tradition of excluding women from all public endeavors, including literature. It is to continue to perpetuate the myth that women are “different” and “other” and “not regular.” It is to perpetuate the harmful myth that lacking women is not lacking anything of importance. It is to aid and support the perspectives of active woman-haters who are sincerely convinced that women can do nothing of worth.

    But I guess you don’t see the problem with doing any of that. Perhaps because it isn’t you and people like you who are being othered and excluded.

  125. tariqata says

    To teach a course with only male authors when there are many important female authors who have written on the subject being taught, and NOT to bill it as “men’s literature” but simply as “literature” is to continue to misogynist tradition of excluding women from all public endeavors, including literature. It is to continue to perpetuate the myth that women are “different” and “other” and “not regular.”

    *Cheers*

  126. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    When I was an undergraduate, I took a class on speculative fiction. Which covered both “hard” and “soft” science fiction, fantasy, and older styles like the pre-modern “here’s the story of my trip to a totally real place fantastic version of a maybe-real-maybe-not place that I totally went on dreamt up because I thought it was neat and/or to make a Point™about my own culture” style.

    But the professor did something deliberate. Other than certain “classics” of the genre (which is to say, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine), everything we read was by a woman. And we got some real interesting stuff! We read Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, where the protagonist is a Black woman, a bunch of Tiptree (including Harlan Ellison’s hilarious-in-hindsight “James Tiptree is totes a dude because my penis says so” essay), a bunch of LeGuin, and others.

    It was an awesome class. And the professor’s point was very well taken: the line between “men’s literature” and “women’s literature” is artificial, imposed by society.

  127. Forelle says

    Antiochus Epiphanes:

    If anyone has any suggestions about really excellent** modern non-male writers, I am all eyeballs.

    Toni Morrison seems an obvious choice, but why not; don’t be deterred by her Nobel prize. I’ve always liked her and lately I’ve been blown away by A Mercy. Not because it isn’t flawed –it is–, but that just adds to its beauty.

    Like you, I’ve also taken note of authors that have been mentioned in this thread. Some of them I knew — my goodness, but years ago I loved reading Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark. I should get more of her work.

    More on topic, what e.g. Sally Strange has just said.

  128. says

    Also this:

    since the list of authors and works is listed in the course description I still don’t see why this is inappropriate or unfair.

    Is it unfair in the sense that students are expected to know what they’re signing up for? No. It’s unfair in the sense that an educator, and, by extension, the university, is sending the message to students that excluding female authors is a perfectly reasonable approach.

  129. chris61 says

    Daz (#155)
    If the entire English program focussed exclusively on white male authors then I would agree that the university was sending the message you suggest but it doesn’t and so I don’t. This is one visiting professor (who is a writer not even a formally trained professor) offering to share his enthusiasm for certain writers. I’d like to think that university students are mature enough to recognize the difference between an opinion and a fact and the value of being exposed to different perspectives even if they don’t necessarily agree with them.

  130. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    thecynicalromantic @123: Yes!

    Ever notice how when dudes read books about dudes “just like them” doing stuff they’d like to do it’s called “identification” and we take it as a serious thing in literature and a mark of good writing, and when women and girls read books about women and girls doing stuff they’d like to do it’s disparaged as “wish fulfillment” and treated as being self-evidently a mark of both stupid readers and terrible writing?

    Yes, especially when this kind of character is called a “Mary Sue” to emphasize that it’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy that female writers are particularly prone to creating.

    I will point out, however, that Gilmour is an instructor, not a professor. He appears to be a pet Famous Person who was hired for the publicity and the university can easily stop hiring him for another session: and I hope they will.

  131. says

    Hi Chris, my name is Sally Strange and I wrote several replies to you. Are you, like Gilmour, also mysteriously averse to reading the things that women write?

  132. says

    What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.

    Um. Why is he so sure all these guys were heterosexual?

    There seems to be a pretty good case Tolstoy was gay.

    And what’s his problem with gay writers? And why does he assume being gay means you can’t be a real guy-guy?

    Sounds like this dude has a lot of issues. And not just with women.

  133. says

    I’d like to think that university students are mature enough to recognize the difference between an opinion and a fact and the value of being exposed to different perspectives even if they don’t necessarily agree with them.

    Erm, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these things (or at least a more formalised application of them) part of what they’re supposed to be learning at university? it’s certainly what they should be being taught to look for in literature. And wouldn’t this process be helped by, oh I dunno, exposing them to multiple perspectives, via literature?

    Echoing Sally Strange, I find it… ironic, that you choose to answer my reletively minor objection to your comments, but seemingly ignore the much more substantive replies made by—horror of horrors!—a person with lady-parts.

  134. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    “Love, sex, and death”? Then where’s Shauna Singh Baldwin’s What the Body Remembers? Where is Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild or Kindred or Lilith’s Brood? Where is James Baldwin’s Another Country? Where is The Female Man by Joanna Russ?

  135. says

    Richard Carrier:

    Sounds like this dude has a lot of issues.

    He’s a navel gazer, and is under the impression that the lint in his navel is so utterly captivating, that everyone else will find it so as well.

  136. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Chris is arguing from an absolutist academic freedom point of view. It has the same problems as absolute free speech, no responsibility for what one does. A very libertarian view, but not very true in practice.

    Also Chris, failure to respond to obvious women posters says a lot about your own lack of character. Correct that one way or another.

  137. sprocket says

    A film professor who taught at the university I went to was challenged by an African-American grad student that he included no movies with actors of African descent in his curriculum.

    His reply: “What? I show Birth of a Nation.”

  138. chris61 says

    Sally (#158) Hi Sally Strange, I’m chris61. I have no aversion to reading things written by women but I assumed the question about whether I was 13 was rhetorical and thus required no reply. If I was mistaken then no, I’m not. I’m 61 years old and I’ve spent most of my adult life in and around universities. In my experience elective courses, as Gilmour’s is described as being, are almost always pretty narrow in scope and about a subject the lecturer/professor loves. At the risk of repeating myself, I continue to see nothing wrong with that.

  139. says

    …because the only point Sally Strange made, over the course of multiple comments, was a snarky remark about your age.

    Well done.

  140. says

    You know what I hate? People who won’t engage until you more or less suck up to them. Why do I bring that up? No reason. No reason at all.

    I’m 61 years old and I’ve spent most of my adult life in and around universities.

    Tell me then: in your experience, would you say you encountered literature course whose authors were all female, without a title along the lines of “Women’s Literature,” or “Women’s Perspective on X”:

    _____________
    a.) Very rarely
    b.) Occasionally
    c.) About half the time
    d.) Often
    e.) Very frequently
    ______________

    Would you say that your experience is representative? Why or why not?

    In my experience elective courses, as Gilmour’s is described as being, are almost always pretty narrow in scope and about a subject the lecturer/professor loves. At the risk of repeating myself, I continue to see nothing wrong with that.

    I see that you are approving of the abstract principle of having a preference. In the abstract, I too believe that it’s best that professors have the freedom to base their coursework on their own preferences, to the extent it’s not determined by outside curricula. However, I am capable of both approving of the idea of having preferences, and also thinking that sexism is a pretty lousy basis for a preference.

    Are you capable of doing that?

    Do you agree or disagree with the passage that I wrote that got repeated and referenced a couple of times by other people? The passage that goes as follows:

    To teach a course with only male authors when there are many important female authors who have written on the subject being taught, and NOT to bill it as “men’s literature” but simply as “literature” is to continue to misogynist tradition of excluding women from all public endeavors, including literature. It is to continue to perpetuate the myth that women are “different” and “other” and “not regular.”

    Particularly given the knowledge that the man has a hard time relating to women in general, as he both demonstrates and admits, I find it highly likely that any class on the theme of “love, death, and sex” taught by a sexist man using only male authors, exploring the theme from only the male perspective, could hardly help but communicate and reinforce sexist norms. You’re saying, “Communication good!” and I’m saying, “In general, yes. In this case, the content is disturbing.” So, care to move onto the next step and join me in a discussion of the concrete rather than the abstract?

    Cheers,

    Sally

  141. A. Noyd says

    SallyStrange (#169)

    However, I am capable of both approving of the idea of having preferences, and also thinking that sexism is a pretty lousy basis for a preference.

    The way Gilmour’s defenders keep going on about “preferences” reminds me a rather lot of the way people defend racial fetishes. Preferences don’t just emerge ex nihilo, without any cultural influence. Not when they’re for or against socially constructed categories like race or gender, anyway. And they’re never neutral. When someone’s preferences faithfully follow the contours of our racist, sexist, homophobic (etc.) status quo, they should be questioned ruthlessly. Not rewarded with teaching jobs that further entrench them.

  142. says

    Oh, how fascinating.

    It’s obvious to me, having read the full transcript, that Gilmour is an appalling misogynist. Not only does the transcript show him interrupting the female reporter several times, he also addresses her as “love” and describes a female author’s book as “sweet.” You can read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions to his comments on “serious heterosexual men,” and the fact that he doesn’t like any Chinese authors. The transcript was released by Hazlitt when Gilmour claimed the reporter quoted him out of context. As though the full context of his remarks would make them any less reprehensible.

    Men like Gilmour are dangerous. They’re dangerous because they’re not your run-of-the-mill misogynist/racist/homophobe stereotype. He’s not a frat boy. He’s not a Klan member. He’s not toothless redneck swilling Budweiser and complaining about the gays. He is a man who is appears thoughtful and intelligent. He’s a college professor and a published author. It is assumed by the reader that his opinions have been shaped by his education, that he has a better understanding of the world than your average pleb. So when he says that he’s not interested in teaching anything but white male produced literature, he’s lending credibility to the pervasive belief that if there’s something a woman/person of color/LGBT identifying person has to say, a white man can probably explain it better. Because the only thoughts and experiences that matter are the thoughts and experiences of educated white men. The world must consume the material produced by these important figures, and anything written by anyone else is optional. And he’s teaching his students and readers to believe the same.

    Jenny Trout* reached the same conclusion I did with regards to the message he’s sending: that the perspectives and interests of women don’t matter. That men are regular, normal, standard; that women are “other” and “different” and “mysterious”.

    At the risk of repeating myself, do you agree or disagree that this is, at least in part, what is communicated by Gilmour’s particular choices and words?

    *Never heard of her before this; someone linked to her blog over at Ophelia’s. Apparently she’s a fiction author as well as a blogger.

  143. A. Noyd says

    SallyStrange (#171)

    someone linked to her blog over at Ophelia’s.

    That was me, and I linked her upthread here, too. I found her initially because of someone else linking her in a Pharyngula thread a year or so ago. She’s an author and a culture critic who’s almost done with a chapter-by-chapter, feminist deconstruction of all three Fifty Shades books. Her commenting community is, with her explicit encouragement, rather like Pharyngula’s. She’s also self-critical (in an analytic sense) and happy to admit that her earlier books are very problematic with respect to the tropes she criticizes in others now.

  144. says

    chris61 @167:

    I’m 61 years old

    Just so you know, that’s meaningless around here, so it’s not the best idea to try and trade on it. We have a commentariat which spans from 14 years old to 80something year old, with every age inbetween. Me, I’m 55, 56 this November.

    I’ve found that the older you are, the more conscious you need to be when it comes to self-examination of biases and privilege. There’s a tendency to get one’s Bayesian Priors in a rut, so to speak. It’s a good thing to get out of your comfort zone, see things from a point not your own, and indulge in some critical thinking, with that lovely laser light aimed at your self.

  145. A. Noyd says

    Also, speaking of criticism, if Gilmour so heavily identifies with these authors, how well does he handle criticism of them? Does he see it as criticism by proxy and deal with hit as poorly as he deals with criticism leveled directly at himself?

  146. says

    Also, chris61, your university experience can’t be held up as some sort of ‘I have the authority of experience’ goalpost. Lots of people here have been to university, are in university, or teach at university. Much experience, and one thing you’ll find, is that a woman of colour will have a very different experience, university-wise to a white man, and so forth. Your university experience is relevant to you, and that’s fine. What people are attempting to do is to get you to think outside your own experience.

  147. chris61 says

    Hi again Sally Strange,

    I hate a lot of things too, including people who make assumptions. But I’m willing to engage.

    I can’t really answer your question because I’m not an academic in English literature. I can only base an answer on a search of the courses listed on the U of T English department web site where I note there several courses about female authors which aren’t specifically labeled as “women’s literature” – although a course about Jane Austen or Alice Munroe is obviously is about a female writer. There are also several other courses that apparently discuss only male writers but aren’t specifically labeled “male literature”. But if Gilmour or any of these other instructors list the writings that will discussed in their courses how would specifying that these are all male writers be anything but redundant? If, in his course, he is specifically denigrating women writers (as opposed to choosing not to discuss them) then I withdraw all my defense of this guy’s position.

  148. says

    I wouldn’t have a problem with a teacher of 20th century history who refused to mention WWII

    O.o

    Love, sex and death in short fiction
    This course will examine how a variety of international authors, both nineteenth century and modern, handle the themes of mortality, sexual passion and love in their short fiction. [ It then goes on to mention the particular works that will be discussed.]

    Women don’t write literature about these topics. Nuh-uh. It’s not like women (or Chinese writers) fuck, love, or experience death. *rolleyes*

    Also, I agree with sally “a variety of” is a lie. “A narrow selection of” is correct. And yeah, if he was gonna only include white dudes, then the course is not “Love Sex and Death in Short Fiction”, it’s “White male perspective on Love, Sex, and Death” (to accurately parallel this with the African-American perspective” and “women writers perspective” type of courses.

    I still don’t see why this is inappropriate or unfair.

    you don’t see how blatantly discriminating against and erasing people not like you is a problem?
    I’m so shocked.

  149. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If, in his course, he is specifically denigrating women writers (as opposed to choosing not to discuss them) then I withdraw all my defense of this guy’s position.

    What is your excuse for not paying attention to the thread? He obviously has issues with women, much less women writers, so what reason do you use to justify your continued and frankly inane defense of him?

  150. says

    If, in his course, he is specifically denigrating women writers (as opposed to choosing not to discuss them) then I withdraw all my defense of this guy’s position.

    there’s some evidence(though not very strong) that he considers literature by women to be “comfort lit”.

    That’s not the point however. He has said that he only teaches great authors; and he includes no one in that list who isn’t white, and only one woman. That’s bigotry, even if it might be internalized rather than conscious.

  151. says

    ut if Gilmour or any of these other instructors list the writings that will discussed in their courses how would specifying that these are all male writers be anything but redundant?

    by that logic, titling the course anything at all would be redundant.
    Look, you gonna teach only a narrow slice of something, you gotta label that accurately. If your reading is all white dudely dudes, then that’s what the course needs to be called, the same way it is called “short fiction” because there’s only short fiction in it.

  152. says

    chris61:

    If, in his course, he is specifically denigrating women writers (as opposed to choosing not to discuss them) then I withdraw all my defense of this guy’s position.

    Hoo boy. Okay, here’s the thing which you keep insisting on ignoring, Mr. Gilmour did specifically denigrate women writers:

    I’m not interested in teaching books by women.

    But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.

    Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and 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.

    That’s denigration. That’s dismissal. That’s saying that women writers don’t count in his view of things. That’s saying that women writers have not written one thing that is capable of holding his interest, or even gaining his interest in the first place. It’s rather difficult to handwave women more effectively than this, and it is not a matter of Mr. Gilmour simply saying “I am only capable or desirous of teaching about favourite authors of mine.” He didn’t say that. He went out of his way to say that women authors are simply of no account.

    Your insistence on filtering what Mr. Gilmour said through your own experience is part of what is drawing the ire of people here. You’re seeing things from much the same point as Gilmour, which is through the lenses of privilege, with no consideration to how this is completely erasing women, granting them no validity. Give this a read, please: The Male Privilege Checklist.

  153. says

    love this comment from the U of T professor’s post on Gilmour:

    The exact opposite of Gilmour’s point is true: good teaching requires empathy — an effort to understand things, ideas, and people totally unlike you. Some of those people are your students. Some of those things are of the past. Some of those ideas are the ideas of authors from different cultures than yours, and yes, shockingly, even of a different gender. Engaging with those people, things, and ideas is not just what research means, and why research is necessary, it’s what reading is.

    yup.

    This one’s another good observation:

    I don’t know if this inane interview bears any resemblance to what Gilmour is telling his students. If it does, I’m sorry. They might as well read Wikipedia. Rather notably absent from the interview: literature. Rather notably over-present: authors. Profession of the interviewee: author.

    None of what makes Chekhov a cool guy, after all, has anything to do with the plays or short stories he wrote. It’s all about his “personality.” His grace. His generosity. And his “bellicose laugh.”

  154. says

    Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and 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.

    That’s denigration. That’s dismissal. That’s saying that women writers don’t count in his view of things.

    I know that RateMyProfessors needs to be taken with a block of salt, but consider this comment:

    Very full of himself. Painfully obvious that he favours the guys in the class. When asked why there were no female authors on the syllabus said “I don’t believe in ‘good for you’ literature”. Some students love him, but I honestly think while he might be intelligent he hasn’t matured past adolescence.

    If that’s not denigrating both female authors and the students who want to read them, I don’t know what is.

  155. says

    Jadehawk:

    If that’s not denigrating both female authors and the students who want to read them, I don’t know what is.

    Exactly. Also, Gilmour’s “I don’t believe in ‘good for you’ literature” is incredibly demeaning, and it’s another instance of infantilizing women authors.

  156. says

    I can’t really answer your question because I’m not an academic in English literature

    Incorrect. I did not ask in relation to your experiences as an academic in English literature. I asked about your experience, period. You could have easily answered. You chose not to. Even when looking up the course catalog, you neglect to mention whether there are any courses with an exclusively female author list which are simply categorized as “Literature,” or “Literature of X,” without reference to the gender of the author list. That would not have been that hard, IF you actually cared about providing an honest answer.

    You also refused to answer whether or not you are capable of both approving of the idea of having preferences in the abstract while simultaneously holding the opinion that sexism is a lousy basis for a preference.

    You also failed to answer whether you agree or disagree with the following passage:

    To teach a course with only male authors when there are many important female authors who have written on the subject being taught, and NOT to bill it as “men’s literature” but simply as “literature” is to continue to misogynist tradition of excluding women from all public endeavors, including literature. It is to continue to perpetuate the myth that women are “different” and “other” and “not regular.”

    Why should I engage with you if you refuse to answer straightforward questions, while prevaricating that you’re really incapable rather than just unwilling? Never mind snarky remarks about age, a conversation requires a basic willingness to acknowledge the content of what the other person has said.

  157. says

    And yeah, if he was gonna only include white dudes, then the course is not “Love Sex and Death in Short Fiction”, it’s “White male perspective on Love, Sex, and Death” (to accurately parallel this with the African-American perspective” and “women writers perspective” type of courses.

    And there would be nothing wrong with that. The problem is, if they started using correct labeling that way, they’d be forced to acknowledge how MANY courses are “[Subject X] from the White Male Perspective,” and then they’d have to actually put some work into achieving literary diversity.

  158. says

    As a side-note: it would help this discussion if people didn’t confuse modern fiction (AKA literary modernism) with contemporary fiction. The further away you get from the world wars, the less likely it is that a book is “modern fiction”.

  159. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    The problem is, if they started using correct labeling that way, they’d be forced to acknowledge how MANY courses are “[Subject X] from the White Male Perspective,”

    Exactly.

    *Clears throat*

    Ahem. I have An Degree in Literatoor. And as the bearer of said degree, I feel like these are my peeps we’re talking about. And what Sally Strange said here is true. What has traditionally and historically been considered to be “real Literatoor” with the capital L (and thus worthy) has been male-dominated for literally centuries. Which says all the things Sally Strange said earlier about women being “other” and male perspective being “worthy” and “default” and “correct” and “objective”.

    More than that, though, this has a ripple effect to the students.

    As a student, if I were to look at the course title, I’d be desperate to get into the class. If I were to look further, though, to the list of authors, I’d want to avoid said class in favour of one that doesn’t, for the eleventy billionth time, cover The Male Perspective Exclusively Because That’s What Default Reality Is.

    BUT

    Can I afford to take an “elective” with only “women writers”? Really? Because I can guaranfuckingtee you that somewhere in my future, when I apply for some post, be it as an editor or an instructor or even, Maude forbid, a professor, my transcript will run into some sexist douchenozzle, who will dismiss my CV after seeing a “women’s lit” course because women write “chick lit” and “soft lit” and “genre fiction” and the most damaging of all, “pulp”, dontchaknow.

    Also, if my department was OK with this course being presented as it was (despite their denials now that it’s become public, they obviously OKed it initially), what does that say about my value as a *gasp* female student, aspiring lecturer and author?++

    So as a student, I’d be driven away from what could be an interesting course if only there were other perspectives than the white male perspective, and left to take another elective that even though I might like it, and even though it may be the best course offered at the uni, might still bite me in the ass in the future because academia is full of the sexist Olde Guarde.

    And as a writer, I would be discouraged even more. Because what’s the use of trying to write if whatever I write under my real name (and can thus be credited with academically, because pseudonyms mean you’re ashamed of something in the Great World of Literature) will first have to be proven to not be “chick lit”.
    And the students learn that this is just the Way of Things, and since they learned this from An Professor, of course it’s true.

    So yeah, this kind of thing contributes to a toxic environment all around, even if that was not the original asshat’s intention (which I haven’t been convinced of yet).

    And yet Chris wants to just pull up his shoulders and say “hey, the guy just likes guy-guy writers. What’s wrong with that?” when it’s not the person’s personal literary preferences that’s being criticized, it’s his wider message he sends through the course he teaches and named as a universal that excludes women.

    That idea that men constitutes the universal and women’s voices are not needed to make up that universal? THAT’s what’s being criticized.

    Now do you understand, Chris? Or would you like to continue going on about how we’re denying his academic freedoms and rights to choose which authors he likes best?

  160. Stacy says

    #134 Antiochus Epiphanes

    I just* started to read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale. If anyone has any suggestions about really excellent** modern non-male writers, I am all eyeballs

    Just for starters, here are some great writers I adore, many of whom should be much better known and, I daresay, would be, if they hadn’t been born with ladybits. NOT A COMPREHENSIVE LIST BY ANY MEANS:

    Katherine Anne Porter (try her collection of three short novels, Pale Horse, Pale Rider. The title story is not only brilliantly written, it provides a look at life in Murica during the First World War, when opposing the war was an act of courage and influenza was rampant. Then there’s Noon Wine, which is a simply gorgeous, devastating story.)

    Christina Stead (The Man Who Loved Children is one of the great novels of the 20th century. It’s been criminally neglected.)

    Flannery O’Connor (I’d recommend the collection A Good Man is Hard to Find. The title story is one of the darkest, and most darkly comic, stories in all of literature. O’Connor is nonpareil. She was an orthodox Catholic and that informs her writing, but don’t let that put you off. She was not a propagandist and her stuff works just fine through a secular lens.)

    Muriel Spark (I adore her short stories.)

    –Moving on toward the second half of the century:

    Tillie Olsen (Tell Me a Riddle, a collection of four short stories, any one of which will break your heart.)

    Angela Carter (A brilliant British writer, a feminist and leftist, who was interested in fable, fairy tale, and film. You could call her stuff magical realism + postmodernism but she transcends boundaries. Her collection of re-worked fairy and folk tales, The Bloody Chamber is justly famous, but personally I prefer Black Venus [that’s the British title, in America the collection is called Saints and Strangers. Also check out her novel Nights at the Circus, about a woman with wings who performs in a circus pretending to be a faker.)

    You say you’ve just started reading Margaret Atwood–check out her latest dystopian trilogy, beginning with Oryx and Crake, continuing with The Year of the Flood and concluding with the just-released MaddAddam, which I cannot wait to read. Also give Cat’s Eye and Lady Oracle a chance. Atwood has a wicked sense of humor but THT is a little too dark and drear in subject to allow it much scope.)

    Toni Morrison (don’t miss Beloved. And A Mercy, mentioned earlier by Forelle.)

    A.S. Byatt.

    Rachel Ingalls should be better known in her native United States. She’s another one who’s criminally underappreciated. I think she’s better known in the UK, where she’s lived for many years. Novels Mrs Caliban and Binstead’s Safari, and great collections like I See a Long Journey, The Pearlkillers, The End of Tragedy. She’s dark and subtle; a reviewer once nailed her style by saying reading her is like driving through a town that seems familiar but the words on the street signs have all been erased. I’ve noticed that her characters are often conventional women and men with conventional gender expectations–which get them into all sorts of terrible trouble. She’s also great at writing about how wealth corrupts.)

    And check out Joanna Russ‘s How to Suppress Women’s Writing for a great analysis of how and why women get dropped from the cultural canon, and how that impoverishes us all.

  161. Stacy says

    WTF–Gilmour equates women’s writing with “good for you” writing? Some of the most uncompromising, devastating works ever written by women. What about Flannery O’Connor? Shirley Jackson? Carson McCullers? James Tiptree Jr.? Octavia Butler? Fuuuuuck that ignorant noise.

  162. says

    Antiochus
    Second Toni Morrison and Arundhati Roy

    chris61

    Love, sex and death in short fiction
    This course will examine how a variety of international authors, both nineteenth century and modern, handle the themes of mortality, sexual passion and love in their short fiction.

    So, do you honestly think that you can teach sufficiently about this subject by only allowing male voices, especially when those male voices are blurting from the speakers 24/7 non stop anyway? Or do you think that, well, maybe women might have something to contribute to this topic as well? As a student I would feel cheated.

    I’d like to think that university students are mature enough to recognize the difference between an opinion and a fact and the value of being exposed to different perspectives even if they don’t necessarily agree with them.

    #
    *knock knock*
    Duh, the actual problem is that students are NOT exposed to different perspectives but fed the same old crap society is saturated with.

    In my experience elective courses, as Gilmour’s is described as being, are almost always pretty narrow in scope and about a subject the lecturer/professor loves. At the risk of repeating myself, I continue to see nothing wrong with that.

    At the risk of repeating everybody else: You’re wrong. His class isn’t geared to give students an overview, something that would allow students to form educated opinions on the subject. It#s also not propperly advertised. I’m actually not in principal against a class about “male views on love, sex and death in short fiction”. It could be a very interesting class that shows how masculinity is constructed via these topics. But to treat literature exclusively written by white dudes as a somewhat representative collection of views on the topic is the same old racist “everybody who matters is a white man” stick we’re fighting against.

    I can only base an answer on a search of the courses listed on the U of T English department web site where I note there several courses about female authors which aren’t specifically labeled as “women’s literature” – although a course about Jane Austen or Alice Munroe is obviously is about a female writer.

    Oh dear, are you so totally ignorant or dishonest that you claim that because a class about a single author is the same as a class about complete genre? But to walk you through this: If a class was advertised as “The work of Jane Austen” and I only discuss Pride and Prejudice because I can’t stand Emma, I would be wrong, too. To discuss Jane Austen without discussing Emma, or Sense and Sensibility etc. would not give students a good knowledge about the works of Jane Austen.

    +++
    Dear Horde
    I love you. My bank account, OTOH, hates you. Now my wishlist at Amazon is full again :)

  163. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    I find the description of his course particularly hilarious.

    The object of the course is to allow students to see that their impressions of the world, their way of “seeing” it, even in their most private thoughts, is often identical to that of other people from other languages and other centuries. What this course does is to help students see literature and film as “company,” as a companion to accompany them through their lives.

    http://www.vic.utoronto.ca/students/academics/othercourses.htm

  164. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    As for good authors, I second some of those already mentioned and would like to offer
    * Alice Walker (you can’t say you’ve Read Seriously without reading The Color Purple)

    And some great South African writers:
    * Nadine Gordimer (must-read oeuvre)
    * Dalene Mathee (Especially Circles in a forest and Fiela’s child)
    * Elsa Joubert (especially The long journey of Poppie Nongena)
    * Sindiwe Magona (I liked Beauty’s Gift)
    * Gillian Slovo

    And because I just can’t resist my love for genre fiction:
    * Angela Makholwa
    * Lauren Beukes (although it’s hard to classify *which* genre, with her. May appeal to Serious Books readers too)

  165. says

    The object of the course is to allow students to see that their impressions of the world, their way of “seeing” it, even in their most private thoughts, is often identical to that of other people from other languages and other centuries.

    pure reality fail.

  166. says

    …and education-fail, too. The last thing college kids need is a re-affirmation that the dominant perspective is also universal. The people who need to hear that there are other people like them are the minorities, the erased voices. Not the dominant ones.

  167. katybe says

    @ Antiochus Epiphanes (and anyone else) – I’m trying to edit out the genre titles, which covers a lot of my reading, but here’s a few more recommendations. Apologies for the UK slant:

    Obviously Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters (I’d say start with Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – I’ve never personally responded well to the central characters in Wuthering Heights). I’d also second the suggestion of Angela Carter above.

    Elizabeth Gaskell. I keep meaning to read more than Cranford myself, but can definitely recommend that one.

    AS Byatt’s Ragnarok is a great retelling of Norse mythology. I also like The Children’s Book, which covers an incredible span of subjects.

    Not read the other 2 in the trilogy yet, but Regeneration, by Pat Barker was one I recently enjoyed. It gives the relationship between Siegfried Sassoon and his psychiatrist when he was confined to a mental hospital for going into print saying they should stop fighting WW1.

    To think of one by an American author I haven’t seen mentioned yet – To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee!

    A slightly off the wall suggestion, but I’m in the middle of reading Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Sword at Sunset at the moment, after someone in my online reading group waxed lyrical about it. She was writing in the second half of the C20th, mostly children’s historical fiction, but this is one of her few adult novels. It does pick up a little on characters and events at the end of a trilogy she wrote for young adult readers about the Roman army in Britain (Eagle of the Ninth, the Silver Branch and the Lantern Bearers, spanning about 450 years) so I’m inclined to recommend reading those first but it’s not essential. This is her retellling of the King Arthur legends, basing it as much as she can on what’s believed to be the historical origins of a chieftain fighting the Saxons. For someone who was in a wheelchair from childhood and unable to go anywhere, she’s remarkably evocative in the way she describes the landscape around Britain, and the process of marching for days with a band of warriors. She also surprised me by having a pair of Arthur’s warriors fall in love with each other (this one was written in the early 60s). Sorry for the long paragraph, but I figured I had to do more work to convince people to try this one.

    And finally, for the books that typify the point made above about good female authors being forgotten, there’s a publishing firm called Persephone that specialise in reprinting authors who were best-selling in the earlier part of the C20th but fell out of favour. Some are lighter than others, but a lot of them deserve to be in the lists of classics. I’ve not read a bad one from them yet – you could almost certainly pick anything from their catalogue that takes your fancy – http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/. I’ve got The World that was Ours, by Hilda Bernstein, sitting on my TBR pile for after I finish with King Arthur – her (white) husband was tried with Nelson Mandela and their colleagues. He was acquitted, they were sentenced to life in prison.

    Why is it it takes a post about books to stop me lurking, I wonder?

  168. says

    oh dear fucking god. That course satisfies the “creative and cultural representations” requirements; those are for teaching some basic cultural diversity, not for teaching that people elsewhere are the same :-/

    Also, the class is apparently not about modern fiction, but sort of generally 19th and 20th century, so all the contemporary fiction people have listed would totally fit in. Dunno where I got the impression it was supposed to be modern fiction.

  169. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    And because I just can’t resist my love for genre fiction:

    Just because one snob made the request for non-genre fiction recommendations doesn’t mean no one else wants them.

    Also, fuck this Must Read ‘Real’ Literature to be a Serious Reader™ bullshit. I’m guessing the fact everything a woman writes gets put into a genre while men’s work gets left as literature is a part of the fucking problem. Why? Because of attitudes like the douchecanoe in the OP. It’s a goddamn feedback loop.

  170. Chie Satonaka says

    Do you really think a guy who has this much disdain for women treats all of his students equally? I sure as fuck don’t. He flat out says that he is UNABLE to relate to anyone who isn’t a hetereosexual white man. I guarantee that this disdain is also extended to his female students, which affects how he interacts with them in class, affects how he grades their work, and thus affects their academic performance.

    Fuck this guy.

  171. says

    The object of the course is to allow students to see that their impressions of the world, their way of “seeing” it, even in their most private thoughts, is often identical to that of other people from other languages and other centuries.

    So, it’s not enough that he has to personally “identify” with everything he teaches–which is why he restricts what he teaches to people “just like him”–but if the students don’t also personally identify with the people that he can only identify with because they’re just like him… they fail the objective of the course?!?! How is that even supposed to work? What if his students are not middle-aged white male writers?

    I just… what the fuck, I can’t even. This guy’s approach to literature studies it not only self-serving, completely antithetical to the entire point of literature studies or the study of the humanities in general, and sexist as all get-out, it’s also internally incoherent.

    Also, the subject-verb agreement in that description is off. “Impressions of the world, way of seeing it, and most private thoughts” is a plural subject; the verb should be “are”. Wicked good writer, there.

  172. says

    The object of the course is to allow students to see that their impressions of the world, their way of “seeing” it, even in their most private thoughts, is often identical to that of other people from other languages and other centuries.

    I suppose that’s true, after you weed out everyone who doesn’t see the world the same way.

  173. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    The object of the course is to allow students to see that their impressions of the world, their way of “seeing” it, even in their most private thoughts, is often identical to that of other people from other languages and other centuries.

    Right. Because the default perspective is in fact that of the heterosexual white male. Every other perspective is a nuance or variant on this.

  174. A. Noyd says

    Rutee Katreya (#202)

    I suppose that’s true, after you weed out everyone who doesn’t see the world the same way.

    Right? It’s a fucking massive contradiction for someone who can only relate to authors who are middle-aged, serious heterosexual guy-guys just like himself to say that everyone sees the world the same way.

  175. says

    A. Noyd:

    Right? It’s a fucking massive contradiction for someone who can only relate to authors who are middle-aged, serious heterosexual guy-guys just like himself to say that everyone sees the world the same way.

    Not only that, it also seems Mr. Gilmour isn’t astute enough to realize that the authors he venerates aren’t/weren’t actually like him; it’s simply his perception of some of their works, along with his perception of himself.

  176. A. Noyd says

    @Caine (#206)
    Good point. And while I don’t think everyone who teaches in college necessarily needs a doctorate, this is where having one would come in handy for Gilmour so he’d know how the life and times of his favorite authors were different from his own and be able to place their writing in a context not of his own imagining.