Don't Read Politics into American Literature
Shaw, Peter, Insight on the News
In the hands of politically correct teachers, American literature has gone from being studied in an objective, responsible manner to being utilized as little more than a vehicle for attacks on America. During the last 25 years, as one minority movement after another has declared its members victims of American society, college teachers of American literature have, as have teachers of other subjects in the humanities, accommodated their classrooms to the complaints of each group. They have done so by declaring the classic works of 19th-century American literature to have been politically retrograde and insensitive to minorities.
In response to charges by black activists that America is irremediably racist, the professors have taken the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, beloved around the world for its high spirits and good humor, and complained that it strays too far from the dour condemnation of slavery they would prefer. In response to feminist claims that America is a patriarchy directed against women, they have taken Henry James's love story with a happy ending, The Bostonians, and asserted that the heroine is betrayed by James when he marries her off at the end. In response to charges of American homophobia and insensitivity to Hispanics, American Indians and other ethnic groupings, the professors have in one way or another distorted the works of virtually every other American author as well.
As I argue in my book, Recovering American Literature, teachers in the 1990s have shifted their basis of judgment from literary excellence to political correctness. College administrators, intimidated by the same activists as the teachers, endorse politicization in the classroom. Hiring quotas now favor teachers who dismiss literary judgment in favor of politics. Once hired, such teachers are expected to use their classrooms to advance a political agenda. And they do. Standing before their students, they spew an unending denunciation of the very American society …
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Publication information: Article title: Don't Read Politics into American Literature. Contributors: Shaw, Peter - Author. Magazine title: Insight on the News. Volume: 10. Issue: 21 Publication date: May 23, 1994. Page number: 18+. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.
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