"If you want to become well-versed in English literature, you’re going to have to hold your nose and read a lot of white male poets. Like, a lot. More than eight. The canon of English literature is sexist. It is racist. It is colonialist, ableist, transphobic, and totally gross. You must read it anyway."
This piece of scheiss, from a long Waldman piece that is astounding in its moral confusion, not surprisingly comes from Slate. This makes her an intellectual slut. The canon of English literature is none of these things. It is among the finest accomplishments in the history of ANY language.
All cultures have their own literature, arts and culture. This is the common gift to humankind: the gift of thought and creativity. But for some reason the English language has taken the lead in creativity and productivity. English novels, poetry, theater and the spoken word are among the most exciting and dynamic of all language arts. And two of the most brilliant literary geniuses of our time - Salman Rushdie and Derek Walcott - were born in different countries and cultures and because of the adaptability and flexibility of the language they were able to produce some of our greatest writings. Rushdie was a Muslim and Walcott was a black from the Caribbean. If you asked them about the English language and whether they agreed with Waldman, I can imagine their astonishment and anger. Were he still alive, Marquez would certainly have some strong words to say.
But go back in time to Chaucer before there were British colonies or slaves. Before women wore hijabs, before anyone knew or cared about homosexuality (and before dignified discreet people discussed private matters like sex in public). Why doesn’t Waldman turn on her time machine and go back and confront all these horrible authors who had the misfortune to be born white? Shakespeare is totally gross? Keats gross….the author of some of the most beautiful poetry honoring love and women?
You want sexism, homophobia, racism? Try the Muslim and Arab world. Turn on your TV or go to the internet (or to any mosque) and you will find the rantings and ravings of Muslim imams, anti-Semites and misogynists as the daily fare, unedited and uncensored. Go read the daily school lessons of Hamas in Gaza, accompanied by videos, teaching young children to hate Jews and to look forward to killing them or being martyred themselves. Go to the UN and read the manufactured indictments of Israel for daring to act in self-defense against the unprovoked rocket bombings and Arab suicide terrorists who kill innocent Israeli families and soldiers……but no indictments of the regimes and movements that freely commit honor killings, genocide, pogroms against Christians, and child marriage and slavery.
Waldman personifies today’s anti-intellectualism and celebration of the fanatic ideological plague called Identity Politics. Whatever the ultimate outcome, one thing has been demonstrated with certainty: the immaturity and self-love of the new feminists, who manifest neither insight nor historical awareness nor intellectual rigor. Future readers of Waldman and her tribe will scratch their heads and wonder how so many purportedly educated women turned out to be just plain foolish.
We are talking here about the rapid deterioration of rational thought, of the disappearance of the public expectation that when someone writes something insulting or critical, the writer needs to present EVIDENCE to support her claim. This is the depths of not just ignorance but subliminal anti- intellectualism, the belief that the expression of an opinion is important even when it lacks any content of value. This is egotism writ large, coming from a Yale PhD., prize-winning poet and blog editor. This is one of many harbingers in the media today of not just intellectual deficiency but of a doctrine of libel and slander that goes unchallenged because self-adulation and worship of anything transgressive of the existing order have become secular doctrines no less coercive than a religious one.