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Published On: Tue, Oct 31st, 2017

Yale to ‘decolonize the English department’ and ‘harmful’ focus on Chaucer, Shakespeare

In the age of snowflakes, Yale has answer a call “decolonize the English department,” adding a new course created by the department to combat allegations of racism with plans for a more “diversified” slate of courses.

Previous requirements for the English major included two courses in “Major English Poets,” including Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton and Eliot, among others. But that two-course series petitioners had deemed actively harmful due to its focus on white male poets.

The series is no longer a graduation requirement for Yale’s English majors.

photo courtesy Fathom Events

The petition, a Google document which has since been made private, critiqued the perceived whiteness of the English department requirements: “A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms all students, regardless of their identity.”

“It’s time for the English major to decolonize — not diversify — its course offerings,” the petition added. “A 21st century education is a diverse education: we write to you today inspired by student activism across the university, and to make sure that you know that the English department is not immune from the collective call to action.”

Seven months ago, Yale’s English faculty voted to “diversify” the curriculum and the director of the department’s undergraduate studies, Jessica Brantley, told The Yale Daily News: “We’ve constructed a curriculum that has inclusion as its goal, embedded in the structures of its requirements, and I’m very excited to implement and develop that curriculum further.”

The changes mean that a student could graduate from the program without ever reading either Chaucer or Shakespeare.

In the Comparative World English course, which debuted this fall, taught by English professor Stephanie Newell, centers on her research which focuses on “the public sphere in colonial West Africa and issues of gender, sexuality, and power as articulated through popular print cultures,” according to her faculty bio.

Other courses she has taught at Yale include “Contemporary African Fiction: Challenges to Realism,” “South African Writing After Apartheid,” and “Postcolonial World Literatures, 1945 to Present,” her bio states.

About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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