Guest post: two real teachers of literature respond to Gilmour

Andrea Day and Miriam Novick read these remarks yesterday at the event Serious Heterosexual Guys for Serious Literary Scholarship, held at the statue of Northrop Frye at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. The remarks are on Facebook, and posted here by permission.

For those of you who couldn’t be there yesterday, below are the remarks @Andrea Day and I read at the start of yesterday’s events.

Good morning, serious and unserious readers, teachers, and lovers of literature! We’ve asked you to join us here today to respond to David Gilmour’s recent comments about why he teaches what he calls only “very serious heterosexual guys” in his literature courses here at Victoria College. In his own words, “I teach only the best.”

Because Gilmour does not “love” any Canadian authors or writers who “happen to be Chinese or women” (except, of course, Virginia Woolf), he focuses on books about white, middle-aged male authors here in his classes at Vic. This misrepresents our profession: as teachers of literature, we want to introduce our students to a range of perspectives and to encourage them to think critically. [Read more…]

Narcissism as literary appreciation

Exactly. Holger Syme, Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto, on David Gilmour’s version of professing literature.

…unlike Mr. Gilmour, who teaches the odd college course, I am a professor of English literature here, and it stung to see his bizarre, reactionary views on literature and teaching associated in the media with my institution, and in particular with its literary scholars.

That’s why I think it’s important to say that David Gilmour is not a colleague of mine (though I speak in this, and in the rest of this essay, only for myself, not for U of T). As far as I can tell from his published comments, he’s not much of a literature professor either. He seems to be fond of authors, and he says he loves their work–provided they are male, white, and very much like him. If they check those boxes, there are few limits to how far Mr Gilmour is willing to go in his passion. Take Proust, whom he loves so much, he’s read him twice. [Read more…]

Such men are dangerous

More on David Gilmour.

Gilmour seems to think enough of himself to believe that he’s somehow unique in his approach to teaching literature. The only female writer whose work he teaches is Virginia Woolf, and then only a single short story. So he’s proud of teaching a curriculum that’s limited to his own narrow viewpoint, which is apparently going unrepresented “down the hall,” in a class that is clearly beneath him.

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.” [Read more…]

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

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

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

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

Keeler: That’s too bad.

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

Gilmour: Come in!

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

There was a French guy in the room, I tell you

Now David Gilmour is in the hot seat for saying such stupid things in that interview. He explains to the National Post why he didn’t really say it and he said it wrong and it was jokes and it’s the young woman’s fault. (Everything always is.)

This was an interview I gave sort of over the shoulder. I was having a conversation, in French, with a colleague while this young woman was doing this interview. So these were very much tossed-off remarks. They weren’t written down. It wasn’t a formal sit-down interview or anything like that.

Eh? So, what happened? He was having a conversation with a colleague, in a coffee shop or his office or the colleague’s office, and this mysterious young woman just came along and started firing questions at him? And he didn’t tell her to go away, he answered her? [Read more…]

“I’m not interested in teaching books by women”

Then via PZ a brilliantly transgressive and original Canadian guy who writes novels and got a gig teaching novels at the University of Toronto despite no PhD. He talked to Emily M Keeler for a series she does for a website at Random House, nicely titled Hazlitt.

I’ve just moved, so my library at home is unfortunately in storage. A thousand, maybe twelve hundred books are in storage. The books here, this tends to be what I teach. These are, of course, the treasured Proust, one of my great joys is not only having read Proust but having read him twice, and having listened to the audio CD twice. There’s two versions, one’s 50 hours and one’s 150 hours. They’re both dazzling. I like volume 4, Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s the most entertaining, it’s the funniest. It’s very, very funny about human vanity, particularly gay vanity.

But the photo under that shows the Random House edition of Proust, which of course is a translation. It’s a little odd to say you’ve “read Proust” just like that when you’ve read him only in translation. It’s not odd in casual conversation of course, but when you’re talking for publication and you teach at a university – well I would think you’d be aware that reading a translation isn’t just straightforwardly reading the author.

But that’s not the interesting bit. [Read more…]