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English prof only wants to teach books by "serious heterosexual guys"

September 26, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Some of my Facebook friends are seriously annoyed this week by David Gilmour, a modern literature professor at the University of Toronto's Victoria College, who refuses to teach books by female authors.

"What I teach is guys," Gilmour said in an interview with Random House, because he isn't passionate enough about books by women, like Canadian author Margaret Atwood, to want to teach them.

His favorite books are by "serious heterosexual guys" like Anton Chekhov and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He might make an exception to his "no girls" rule for author Virginia Woolf, but he thinks she's too complex for his students to understand. Anyone who wants to read women authors, he said, can take another class. The interview can be found at http://www.randomhouse.ca/hazlitt/blog/david-gilmour-building-strong-stomachs

Gilmour is apparently an author of some note, though I've never heard of anything he wrote, and is a former TV presenter. He also teaches specialized seminars rather than the survey courses that most college students are required to take and that should provide a sampling of many different authors.

Nothing he said bothers me overly, since I had English professors in college who were wildly passionate about Hemingway or Faulkner or Steinbeck. English majors also have their favorites. I freely admit that I was not passionate about the likes of Hemingway, Faulkner or Steinbeck. I also didn't much care for Margaret Atwood, whose "The Handmaid's Tale" gives me the willies, or Virginia Woolf, whose stream of consciousness approach made my head hurt. Instead, I took seminar courses on the Romantic Poets and Edith Wharton and Willa Cather and one particularly entertaining class on the pop schlock of the Victorian Era. Variety is the spice of life and I'm sure there's plenty of variety to be found in classes taught by other English professors at Victoria College.

The big question here is why there's such a tempest in a teacup because an English professor prefers to teach books only by "serious heterosexual guys."

 
 

Article Comments

(9)

AndreaJohnson

Sep-26-13 5:16 PM

Well, the authors he says he likes to teach ARE all white, so I guess we could say it's by implication. The actual quote: "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."

MattRothchild

Sep-26-13 5:08 PM

I didn't see anything from the prof about the authors needing to be white...

AndreaJohnson

Sep-26-13 5:02 PM

The guy may well be a sexist and homophobic jerk, as my Facebook friends have said, but he was also up front about the authors he prefers to teach and why. The college hired him to teach, under the terms that he set, and students have a choice of whether or not to take his classes.

I suppose the class could always be renamed "Survey of White, Seriously Heterosexual Male Writers of the Modern Age" to further advertise his literary preferences.

locomotive

Sep-26-13 4:43 PM

"...guys who are serious heterosexuals...."

LOL Matt!

locomotive

Sep-26-13 4:41 PM

I had an English professor who taught an American lit course. We majored on Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson (the prof's faves) while briefly perusing other authors.

During this college course, the prof neglected to mention that Whitman had a bit of a checkered history, especially for the time period in which he lived. (Yes, I was a babe in the woods.) I found out about good ol' Walt well after college, after enduring the prof's vast appreciation for his talents. He wasn't my cup of tea, but I liked Emily Dickinson.

As far as only teaching books by "serious, heterosexual guys," I think it's great this prof is up front about his course. "Caveat emptor" and "you get what you pay for."

MattRothchild

Sep-26-13 4:03 PM

Ouch. Calling her out in about the least subtle and most pointed way possible. Better hope AJ doesn't have admin powers...

MattRothchild

Sep-26-13 3:44 PM

Would it be cool if he instead said, "I only want to teach books by guys who are serious heterosexuals."

MattRothchild

Sep-26-13 3:31 PM

I don't know why there's such a tempest in a teacup over this. I read it and thought, "Uh, OK."

AndreaJohnson

Sep-26-13 12:49 PM

I have no idea if he has a wife, nor do I particularly care or think it's relevant to the story.

What he likes to teach is really his business. Most top universities also have a women's studies program as well as specialty classes on whatever the professor specializes in.

 
 

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