February 20, 1987 · Cavalier Daily

Professor is Undeserving of 'Sexist' Moniker

This letter to the editor objects to recent students' complaints of sexism against English professor Paul Cantor, grounded on the disproportionate number of male authors on the syllabus for his ENGL 382 course. The writer points to the fact that Cantor rotates the authors on the syllabus from year to year, and that fewer female authors may be featured in one year than another.


1987-02-20 - Professor is Undeserving of 'Sexist' Moniker.pdf
Stacy Kourouklis
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Professor is Undeserving of ‘Sexist’ Moniker
Judging by some of the issues heating up letters to the editor lately, it that racism and sexism are the dominant problems around the University today. Indeed they are problems worthy of most serious consideration and corrective measures.
In our zeal to combat these problems, however, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions and be too rash in our judgment of potential problem areas. Appraising a situation too rashly without considering pertinent circumstances could result in undeserved accusations and even outright slander.
Such a case is that of Prof. Paul Cantor's ENGL 382 course, History Of English Literature, the course required of all English degree candidates.
One of the more notable things about the reading list for the course is that there is only one female author on the list. For this reason, a petition was passed around class, requesting that the curriculum be modified to accomodate [sic] more female authors.
In the meantime, Cantor was accused of sexism in his determination of the reading list because he excluded such notable authors as Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and the sisters Anne, Charlotte and Emily Bronte.
The omission of these authors was construed in an editorial in a University newspaper as an implication that "all the greatest authors since the 18th century were men." The situation smacks of sexism — unless it is given more than a split-second evaluation.
An important consideration which was omitted in accusing Cantor of sexism is the organization of the course material. Cantor has included all Of the authors mentioned in at least six of the eight years he has taught the course at the University,
Since he is unwilling to let certain material go stale by teaching it year-in and year-out, he rotates most of the authors on his list, meaning that there may be more female authors represented in one given year than in another, such as this one.
The worst irony about calling Cantor a sexist, however, is that in the nine years he taught this courseat Harvard, he introduced works by Eliot, Woolf and Austen into the curriculum not merely because they were the works of women, but because they had literary merit.
Nobody is calling him an anti-Semite because Harold Pinter did not make this year's rotation of the reading list; when Peter Schaffer falls off the list in the future, probably no one will chastise him for discriminating against homosexuals.
To call Cantor a sexist is obviously even more absurd, given his background in teaching the course. It has been remarked that the lesson to be learned from the petition episode is that while it is important to be aware of subtle discrimination, it is far more important to have all the important information at hand before judging a situation. Failing to do so allows one to perpetuate a prejudice more grave than the one he seeks to prevent.
Cantor deserves special apologies, especially after open-mindedIy altering his curriculum to include more female authors only to receive more needless harassment. Whether he gets it or not, the whole episode will prove worthwhile if we learn to be more open-minded and less open-mouthed in the future.
Stacy Kourouklis
Date Added March 8, 2017
Date Modifed December 9, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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