Final Blog

December 23, 2010

This is one of the few English classes that I have taken and I have truly enjoyed reading most of the works of literature that we focused on in class. As an English major you always hear talk of the Canon and the traditional works of literature that are “essential” and so “important” for English major to read and be familiar with. For our final blog we were asked to basically evaluate the Global Literature course and express what we enjoyed about the class and what we didn’t as well as discussing the Canon.

In my opinion what this course should be is, a class that focuses on literature written by non western writers. What this means is that the course should not include tradition western works which essentially is what the Canon is, but it should mention them very slightly. Because it is Global literature I think that it deserves to only include works of literature that are not western works, after all its only fair because American literature gets two required classes that English majors must take at Queens College, as does British literature. So Global literature in my opinion should not include 20th century canon works.

What worked for me in this course was the second half of the semester. During the second half of the semester we focused on non 20th century works of literature and these works are what grabbed my attention and interested me the most. As I mentioned in previous blogs I absolutely loved “Drown” by Junot Diaz, and I am currently reading his other novel ” The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”. But I never expressed how I truly felt about the other novels we read in the second half such as “Persepolis”, “Dreams From My Father”, and “The Woman Warrior”. I never expressed what how I enjoyed these  novels better than any of  the works we read in the first half. I finally noticed, because of this final blog assignment, the reason behind me enjoying the second half of reading so much better than the first and that reason is because I relate to the authors that wrote the works we read in the second half. Never in my life have I traveled trough Africa, like in “Heart of Darkness”, and describe people by the color of their skin and belittle them in my mind and with my words. But I can relate to Kingston being discriminated against because of her culture, Diaz hating himself because of his culture and ethnic physical traits, and Obama realizing how minorities are exploited by politics. This is why I enjoyed reading in the second half of the semester. There is no hiding that I am a minority, and I can relate to each work that we read in the second half and these works made me think and reminded me why I love reading. I never once could  relate to “Homer:The Iliad,The Odyssey”, and I never once enjoyed reading it. I always thought of English as an art and not a list of “Great” western readings that professors must shove down students throats, and because they know the students will not read it, must then test them to ensure they do because no body wants to fail.

You would think that going to college in New York City which is considered the most diverse city, and going to college in Queens which is the most culturally diverse borough in New York City, that by now we would be able to incorporate more works of literature written by minorities and women. But yet we still focus primarily on the 20th century canon and western literature.  The Canon wars that took place in the 1980s was to incorporate more women and minority writers into the works of literature read in colleges in America. Although they did succeed and us reading Diaz, Obama, Satrapi, and Kingston is evidence of this, I still do not like the idea of the Canon or that they are considered “Great Works” in literature. Why is it necessary to read often racist, and sexist works, what do I learn from this. Being a minority and a English major it is truly disappointing. Why should we read the works of dead white males, are minorities not as good at writing, do women not posses the same passion for writing as these men did. I do not believe that because a group of men decided that these works are “great” means that they should be the focus of English in college education.

Because I am a minority and a English major I maybe bias, but it does not give me hope. I feel like minorities are not represented fairly in the Canon and that the Canon should be changed not only because of the misrepresentation of women and minorities but because of the time period. It would make sense if the Canon was changed every certain amount of years to include past “great” works and current “great” works. But the problem with this is that every onde has a different interpretation of what a great work of literature is.

Out of the 5 classes I have taken for my English major this is the first to spend substantial amount of time on works of literature that are not considered part of the Canon. And I enjoyed this class much more than the other English classes I have taken.

It is not only race and sexuality that is the problem with the Canon and having colleges only focus on the Canon, but having students being narrow minded and only read the Canon is a problem. College is supposed to expand your mind, you are supposed to think and learn. And if Colleges only have students read the Canon then we are only learning parts of literature because we would never experience authors such as Diaz, Kingston, and Obama.

I think  that the Canon wars were very effective, but need to be revisited. During the Canon wars Allan Bloom wrote a book titled “The Closing of the American Mind”, in this book he stated things like “that abandoning the Western canon had dumbed down universities, while the “relativism” that had replaced it had “extinguished the real motive of education, the search for a good life”. I cannot think that any one could be more wrong about moving away from the Western Canon. If students do not like what they are reading they will not read it instead they will find summaries and get the information they need to pass a test or write a paper and the information they are supposed to learn from the reading will never stay with them. Now if we go away from the Canon and read novels close to the current time period and interest students then they will want to read and keep what they learned in their minds and expand their frame of thought. Novels such as “Dreams From My Father” address past issues with African Americans, and current, and includes situations in which most people relate to and this attracts them to the novel.

In time what I think will matter to me as a reader is reading what ever I like to read. Of course I will read the mandatory western Canon reading that I am destined to encounter at least 20 or more times till I complete my English major at Queens College, but I will not enjoy reading them. And what will matter to me as an English major is becoming a better writer and seeing more minorities and women on the syllabus for future classes, and until then I will chant “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western cultures gotta go”, as the students from Stanford did in a rally during the Canon wars.

Now I am not saying the Canon is full with horrible racist and sexist works, but the fact that it only has white male writers makes the canon racist and sexist not the works although some of them are. And the reason that the second half of this semester worked for me was as I stated before was because we read works by talented writers who I can relate my self to and learn from. In simpler terms what I am trying to say is that how can I learn or want to learn from a writer that lived centuries before me and I could never relate to and vice versa.

It saddens me that my first English class with Beverly will be my last because she did introduce me to authors who I probably would have never encountered because of the usual required reading in typical English courses. I think that Beverly handled the course exactly how it should have been handled, in that she showed us some of the Canon then dedicated the rest of the second half to non Canon works of literature.

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