Saturday, May 21, 2022
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No sense, no sensibility

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IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that a university department possessed by wokery must be in want of a victim.

Sure enough, Stirling University have found one. Their English Literature department have removed the works of Jane Austen from their syllabus, saying, ‘This will help the decolonisation of the curriculum and contribute to increased diversity.’  

There will not be a hole where Miss Austen used to be for we are assured: ‘New material will include themes different to [sic] those in Austen’s novels, including racial difference and critical race theory, gender and sexuality.’ That lively concoction is not all: other featured delights are ‘Black Postmodernism and Gothic, discussions of colonialism, colonial violence towards men and women, enslavement, violence, racism, sexism and issues surrounding representations of gender, class, race and mental health.’

Stirling University’s principal, Professor Gerry McCormac, is full of righteous zeal: ‘We must support an antiracist agenda in higher education.’

Jolly good! But tell me Prof, when your English Literature department has got through all this sociologese and agitprop, will there be any time left for English literature?

Jane Austen has a claim to be the finest of our English novelists, so why dump her? Stirling University says that titles such as Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility must no longer be part of the syllabus because their author ‘had her place in Regency-era colonialism and her father, the Reverend George Austen was a trustee of an Antiguan sugar plantation’.

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. We could easily demonstrate the fact that everyone living in England – and even in Scotland – in the 18th century had some connection with the slave trade because it delivered the materials for all our manufactured goods.

Quite what all that has to do with Mr Darcy and Elinor Dashwood – to say nothing of exquisite domestic comedy and dramatic irony – beats me. Was it Jane’s fault that her father had connections with slavery? Must every writer of every age be arraigned before a court appointed only by its own self-righteousness and their relatives’ conduct examined in order to see that it does not offend our current political obsessions and social fads? This leads only to prejudice, no sense and no sensibility.

Well, who am I to criticise? Have I even read any of their ‘critical race theory’? I confess, I have not. But, when I was engaged in my own undergraduate studies, I think I once trod in some.

So what passes for English Literature at Stirling? Let’s have a look at their prospectus and see. I quote:

‘Texts are all around us – from books and magazines to TV, email and the internet. The ability to analyse them and their often subtle meanings is a skill this degree provides.’

Jolly good again, I suppose. But what has that got to do with English literature?

Well, I began with the promise that scrapping Jane Austen will not leave a great hole in the curriculum. The difficult task must surely have been to find a replacement of Austen’s stature. I congratulate Professor Gerry McCormac and his gang of Derrida-soaked, politically-correct deconstructionists on finding one in the person of a dead black female, the alleged novelist Toni Morrison. Here is a single example of the quality of her prose and a summary of her preoccupations. She has written:

‘From my perspective there are only black people. When I say “people,” that’s what I mean.’

That’s racist, isn’t it, Gerry? And surely it’s no example to set before the tender minds of your Stirling snowflakes.

I suggest you bring Jane back.

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Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen is a Church of England clergyman, writer and broadcaster

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