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Inordinate Ordnance: Separating the art from the artist.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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Written by Chris Carr

A University of Toronto literature professor, David Gilmour has launched himself up that certain creek that only Hemingway could really write well about.

Recently Gilmour had made statements about his teaching style. Citing, he doesn't teach any books written by women or Chinese authors. "I'm not interested in teaching books by women.” Gilmour said, “Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women."

This story struck me as a case of context gone awry. This story even has its own Reddit discussion with the headline, “Canadian Professor Won't Teach Female Authors.” currently trending in /r/books with 707 upvotes

But wait, let's examine the backlash here. His remarks are being heralded as misogynist and anti-woman. And if his remarks were to come from a place of hateful speech then yes, he deserves all the backlash. But let's, in the interest of mistaken context, consider Gilmour is not a woman-hater, but instead a politically correct ignoramus.

What if his favourite authors all happen to be men? Does this create a sexist person? When I think of all my favourite writers and directors, the majority of them are male. I would hate to be labelled as a sexist because of my completely subjective affects of taste.

There is something to be said about the climate that might have produced a male-centric taste spectrum. I'll absolutely, one hundred per cent agree to that. However, should taste be as astute as to consider the male-dominated socioeconomic climate of the last 1000 years? Man, I just wanted to watch Bill and Ted without thinking too much.

How much does our taste need to consider the politics of that choice?

This problem of artist/art has sprung up recently in the form of Ender's Game, a sci-fy movie being released in theatres soon (ish?). The problem is that the book Ender's Game was written by Orson Scott Card a known anti-gay rights advocate. In summation, he's a douche and his douche-osity will be inflated by the money this movie will undeniably make him.

And Roman Polanski, a french director and writer, who fled the United States to escape rape charges. His most recent film, Carnage, is currently tracking 71 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes—arguably a successful film for Polanski.

What about Richard Wagner, a Nazi-affiliated composer? “I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.” As Woody Allen famously quipped about his work. Wagner's fans inculded Hitler himself. Are we to not listen to his work because of this?

Where is the line drawn between the artist and their created art? I own a copy of Ender's Game, I love that book. I saw Carnage, it was pretty funny and I'd recommend it. I'm not a Wagner fan, but I love Woody Allen and he married his adopted daughter.

So my question stands: if Prof. Gilmour's taste dictates an absence of Chinese and woman authors—however narrow his taste may be—should he be ostracized for proclaiming as such. Furthermore, does this view tarnish his work otherwise, either his literary work or teaching abilities. Has Prof. Gilmour separated the artist for the art already? And only after that separation, perhaps, has he made the observation that known are woman or Chinese.

Or maybe he's an ass. What do you think?

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