Firestorm Over Canada’s ‘Guys Only’ Prof

This piece was first published on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

If you’ve been anywhere near a Canadian newspaper or news website in the last week, then you’ll know that a scandal involving author and English professor David Gilmour has been dominating the headlines. The dustup is in response to remarks Gilmour made discounting Canadian, women and minority writers.

I asked some Canadian Jewish writers and literature professors for their takes on the controversy, which has not only taken up many column inches, but also led Gilmour’s fellow academics to distance themselves from him, and students to stage protests.

But before we get to the commentary, here is a summary of what led to the brouhaha.

Gilmour’s remarks came in a short, informal interview with a writer named Emily M. Keeler for Random House’s Hazlitt literary blog. According to the transcript of the conversation, Gilmour, an award-winning author who has been teaching (as a non-tenured lecturer) undergraduate courses in modern short fiction at the University of Toronto, is willing only to teach “stuff I love.” This apparently means Russian and American literature (“I just haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach”) by middle-aged white men like him.

When the interviewer pressed him to explain why he doesn’t teach works by women writers, he answered, “When I was given this job I said I would teach only the people that I truly, truly love. And, unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Um. Except for Virginia Woolf.” Then he went on to complain about Woolf being too sophisticated for his students.

It seems common for Gilmour to be questioned about his reading lists. “Usually at the beginning of the semester someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I’m good at is guys.”

Then he clarified that what he meant by “guys” was “very serious heterosexual guys. Elmore Leonard. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy guys…Henry Miller. Uh. Philip Roth.”

 Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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