Monday, February 9, 2009

In Defense of the Genre

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here, but I think it would in good taste to bring another viewpoint into the discussion. It seems the entire class is disagreeing with Mr. Gregerson, and I admit his words seem overly harsh. But, thought his words are harsh, they aren't entirely untrue. What most people are forgetting is that this is an opinion, and he is entitled to his, just as we all are entitled to ours.

If one would read the entire article, there would be a few more things the reader would understand about the rest of article. In the beginning of the article, Mr. Gregerson discusses how many great Christian works, namely St. Augustine's Confessions, have been neglected and left off the Colloquium reading list. In fact, this book, considered by many as a great book, is not on the reading list. Royce goes on to discuss how it seems like a problem that Wabash is leaving more and more Christianity-related works out of the courses here at Wabash. Now, most of the people are probably thinking that I'm going to start to rant about how Christianity is a superior religion and how all people who write on Christian topics are better writers and their works are "great books." I'm not going to, but I'm simply going to say that Western Culture, which has been fueled by the Christian tradition for over 2,000 years, has produced some quality literature.

Royce states that Wabash is removing the Christian tradition from the public square. But, some may say this is necessary for "advancement." But the greatest problem that I see from all of this is that Wabash may be injuring our education by this change. The push to put works from non-Dead White Male authors in the classroom may go too far at some point. the dead white male(dwm) literature isn't "opressing" anyone, nor is it a sign of "elitism," it is merely literature that has been found and tested as "great." Not that other authors aren't seen as great, but just because they aren't dwm's doesn't mean that they should be read in class over something that is written by a dwm. It is not "advancing" our culture at all to include lack-luster works just because they may help 'diversify' the student. I don't believe the works listed in Gregerson's article are lack-luster, but I am saying that if books written by ethnic or female authors are the only books on the Colloquium reading list, a great unjustice would have been done to the authors that happen to be dead white males.


  1. I think Scott has some valid points here. Mr. Gregerson is most certainly entitled to his opinion about the reading list for Senior Colloquium. And The classics of literature should never be sacrificed for the sake of "diversity" within the classroom. However, I felt Mr. Gregerson's article seemed to imply that we should only conform to the canon of our time as acceptable reading material. At its essence, I felt the article was antithetical to the liberal arts education at Wabash. The most fruitful learning experiences I have had at Wabash were the ones where I had to step outside of my comfort zone and read something new or to listen to someone's opposing point of view. I felt Mr. Gregerson's article was an attempt to discourage this type of learning by scoffing at the contemporary works on the curriculum as a bunch of nobodies and hacks. But, Gregerson's opinion posed some other questions, and I believe Mr. Bustamante put it quite adequately when he questions exactly what a classic is. In all Scott, I laud you for recognizing the merit in Mr. Gregerson's opinion.

  2. Although I agree with some points here and I understand the appeal of (pardon the cliché) “going against the tide,” I feel that your post is somewhat shallow. It’s really nothing personal.

    Gregerson is entitled to his opinion; this much is true. However, Gregerson is also entitled to his own ignorance of simple facts and the simplification of the overall idea of the Senior Colloquium course. If you read some of the letter-to-the-editor responses to Gregerson’s column, you will see that portions of St. Augustine’s Confessions are indeed part of the Colloquium corpus. Further, you make a serious error in including a hypothetical scenario in which “great literature” is replaced by “books written by ethnic or female authors.” This is obviously not the case, nor will canonized literature ever be replaced merely for the sake of diversity. In fact, your argument negates itself: there is a balance in the course between classic literature written by “dead white men” and classic literature from more diverse authors. A tip in either direction upsets the purpose of Colloquium itself. By focusing on the classic literature of the “DWM”, the course does in fact advance elitism and oppression. There are indeed many great works by the DWM, but to exclude a work of equal literary merit because a contemporary African-American woman wrote it can only be ascribed to oppression of literature and an ignorance of culture. This would be the true injury to a Wabash education.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I understand where you’re coming from. I realize the vast amount of DWM literature should be passionately explored alongside the vast amount of non-DWM literature. In all honesty, I commend you for taking an opposing stance, but I implore you to think more deeply about what makes literature worth reading.