Moribund literature


Re Kathleen Parker’s May 22 Other Views column, Warning: Literature happening here: Some years ago I taught writing and literature at the University of Miami. When it was the English faculty’s turn, we were summoned to hear a lecture on sensitivity. She warned us to be cognizant of offending, even unwittingly, those students who fall into the categories quoted by Parker from Oberlin College’s draft guide.

As she began covering sexist language, I leaned over to a colleague and said, “Does that mean we can’t teach Henry Miller anymore?” So much for the notion, going back to Aristotle, of literature “holding up the mirror to nature.” But this is moot anyhow, for literature as an integral part of American culture has been moribund for more than 30 years. And if Oberlin, Rutgers, George Washington, and Michigan — not to speak of other colleges and universities that might follow suit — adopt a policy of placing “trigger warnings” on books and syllabuses, literature in this country will finally be put to rest.

Currently, honest literature professors know they are teaching an inconsequential subject; those who don’t are fooling themselves.

Sanford J. Smoller, South Miami

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