The World as Will and Misrepresentation » On Reading Only Authors Bearded Like Me

On Reading Only Authors Bearded Like Me

Camille Paglia’s harrumph about Arcadian myths being “the kind of nonsense you get when you spend more time reading fifth-rate women writers than you do dead white males like Aeschylus and Shakespeare” does not go far enough. Given her devotion to the canon of the arts, by whomsoever created, I am surprised that she does not more systematically attack the idea that one read only the works by individuals who resemble oneself in some way. I call in evidence the bookshop whose staff took for granted that Stephen Saylor belonged under “gay lit” rather than being Roman detective stories of interest to everybody; and we all know the sort of women who refuse to read anything whose author lacks a vagina.

Suppose I were to take it a step further and confine myself to authors who had a beard like mine? Not only should I not read women writers, then, but I would eschew the works of all the Roman writers, as they were clean-shaven, as well as shunning the poetry of TS Eliot; I would be allowed to enjoy the bushy Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky but not the beardless Gogol or Bulgakov; I should be forever cut off from Goethe and the Enlightenment, as well as from most Asian and African authors. So too in music; I ought to listen to Brahms because he had a beard, but not Mozart.

It could be taken a step further still; suppose I were a scientist, I could challenge the theories and repeat the experiments only of the hirsute, and if a scientist shaved his beard, I could take no more cognizance of his work. So too with scholarship; before according credence to any historical source, I should have to research whether or not he had a beard; if a historian, this would pretty much limit me to the medievals and Victorians. Would such a situation really be any more ridiculous than a university-full of students refusing to read Dead White Males?

Done at Douala

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