Yale English Students: Move Beyond White Male Writers

Alison Flood (The Guardian) reports on a petition that rejects traditional English curriculum at Yale
Undergraduates at Yale University have launched a petition calling on the English department to abolish a core course requirement to study canonical writers including Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, saying that “it is unacceptable that a Yale student considering studying English literature might read only white male authors”.

The prestigious Connecticut university requires its English majors to spend two semesters studying a selection of authors it labels the “major English poets”: “Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and John Donne in the fall; John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and TS Eliot or another modern poet in the spring”.

Its intention, the university says, “is to provide all students with a generous introduction to the abiding formal and thematic concerns of the English literary tradition”. The poems the students read, it adds, “take up questions and problems that resonate throughout the whole of English literature: the status of vernacular language, the moral promise and perils of fiction, the relationships between men and women, the nature of heroism, the riches of tradition and the yearning to make something new”.

But students have launched a petition calling on Yale to “decolonise” the course. They want the university to abolish the major English poets requirement, and to refocus the course’s pre-1800/1900 requirements “to deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity”.

More at The Guardian.

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