Saturday, January 29, 2005

Offensive Lit.

On Thursday a student complained to me about the reading list on the syllabus for ENG 103 at Clermont College. ENG 103 is technically not a literature class but a "writing about literature" class. The amount of readings are much lighter than a straight lit. course and the number of text books we can use is very limited.

For the poetry section, I have two weeks of poems by Robert Frost. For drama, I torture them with the longer-than-they-can-believe Hamlet, and for fiction with "Sonny's Blues," "To Build a Fire," and "A Rose for Emily."

Yes, I know. Why didn't I replace Baldwin with The Turner Diaries and have the deadest, whitest, most masculine reading list outside of Bob Jones U?

Partially it's the book and partially it's the course objective. This is the first time I've taught this class and I tried to make assignments around basic elements of literature and these were the best selection from the textbook.

I started to explain this but this wasn't the issue.

"Sonny's Blues" uses (in the student's words) "G.D." and "A Rose for Emily" uses "the N word." This was an insult to "Christian beliefs."

On the one hand, I'm glad he included racial remarks as something that Christians should object to, but this is probably the least offensive reading list he's likely ever to encounter.

I don't mind him speaking his mind but what makes me wonder is that we're not set to discuss the stories until February 24 (after Hamlet). Did he read everything on the syllabus, just skim through looking for bad words, or is there a list somewhere of "godless works of blasphemy that liberals want to force you to read"?

I wanted to talk to him about it after class but he left before I was able. I wasn't planning to discuss Live, Nude Shakespeare, but now I'm tempted.

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