Marquette Warrior: Student Defends English Department

Friday, April 01, 2005

Student Defends English Department

The following is from Jessica Bizub, co-chair of JUSTICE, who takes exception to a post here about ideological conformity in the English Department:
Dear John,

It saddens me that your posts insist on making absolutely everything easily divisible into artificial categories of right/left.

Perhaps the reason the English faculty (and many others) reject a return to the “Warrior” nickname is because it is undeniably linked to racist imagery and attitudes at Marquette. Perhaps those who oppose a return to that name have the respect to look American Indians in the eye and say, “No, my fellow humans, I will not be party to trivializing your culture into a consumer product.” Both positions seem to have little to do with liberal or conservative slant. More importantly, while these scenarios are at least possible, your labeling someone’s stance on the “Warrior” issue “conservative” or “liberal” precludes us from considering them.

It is also possible that the English faculty have a love of and interest in literature that transcends any ideology one wishes to associate with them, and so students have nothing to fear when writing papers in a literature class because that paper will be about some piece(s) of literature, rather than some encoded message about the student author’s political leanings. I fail to see how an argument about, say, “The Tempest” could be considered “conservative” or “liberal” (in the sense used here) without unduly interpreting an argument that is based on a text written long before common uses of these ideological terms.

Honestly, it is well overdue that we lay to rest divisive terms that prevent us from engaging in constructive dialogue about important issues.

Ms. Bizub objects to “artificial categories of right/left.” I’m sure that all her friends and acquaintances who discuss politics with her can testify that she always chastises people who refer to the Bush Administration as “right wing.”


She thinks that the overwhelming majority of English faculty don’t like Warriors because – well, Warriors is bad, and they of course don’t like bad things. The obvious problem is that not everybody agrees that “Warriors” is a bad thing. Indeed, 80% plus of sports fans nationwide, as well as an equally lopsided majority of Indians nationwide, don’t see a problem with Indian team names. Who does? Politically correct liberals and leftists.

Ms. Bizub doesn’t think there could possibly be an ideology here. It’s just that English faculty who don’t like Warriors also voted for Kerry and are happy that abortion is legal and favor affirmative action preferences and quotas. It’s all just independent minds thinking and reasoning and coming to identical conclusions.

Try taking that up with some statistics professor.

Her claim that ideology could not intrude on an analysis of “The Tempest” is odd indeed.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a student of mine who had just come from English class. He explained that he was in a group that included three women students who were analyzing the Brothers Grimm’s “Cinderella.” Naturally, it was being analyzed as a sexist and patriarchal tale designed to keep women subservient.

Anybody who doubts that this kind of analysis is common need only consult Google, and they will find, for example, an essay by one Rob Baum.
The tale of Cinderella is encoded as a text of patriarchal moral instruction in which a sense of female agency will always by definition be absent. In this folk tale, which is also a fairytale, female character is positioned in terms of what it is not: not dominant, not powerful, not male.
And likewise we can look at a web site titled “CheatHouse.” As the name implies, this is for students who, rather than writing their own papers, want to buy a paper pre-written. As one who believes in the efficiency of markets, I’m pretty confident that the papers here are well-designed to appeal to the feminist sensibilities of English professors. One of their papers asserts:
Cinderella operates as a patriarchal instrument, producing and nurturing a psychological dependence in women. . . . Recent feminist perspectives on Cinderella stories have lead to the deconstruction of the dependent woman, and has broken ground in the construction of an independent, active, woman. The Cinderella Complex, attained from implications of vast Cinderella variations, denounces women as overtly dependent beings who cannot function without a man in their life.
Can one find similar treatments of “The Tempest?” Yes, it’s not difficult at all. Check here, and here.

The notion that ideology doesn’t exist in academia, or in English departments, is one that will only appeal to those who share academia’s dominant liberal/left ideology. Students who approach their studies critically – and that does not mean accepting their professors’ “critical” notions uncritically – won’t buy it.


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