Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Great Books, Great Men, Great Events, Great Discoveries"

Back to the conservative-critique-of-academia discussion. I suppose if I could sum up where I think things get/got derailed, it's that conservatives imagine those within academia who critique the conservative critics of academia (CCOAs) do so in defense of Silliness Studies, of in-class dildo demonstrations, etc. When the reality is that we-the-people-in-academia-and-not-riled-at-it agree with plenty of the individual criticisms, but object to the CCOAs' tendency a) to find ridiculousness by taking things out of context, b) to project the rare instances of genuine ridiculousness that are indeed out there on the whole of academia, and, c) above all else, to criticize academia not with the goal of reforming or even revolutionizing it, but as a way to fan the flames of the culture wars (librul elites!) or to be generally curmudgeonly (college hippies, get off my lawn!). Again, we are responding to the CCOAs not to say that they're wrong on all counts and everything is fine and dandy. We are doing so because their critiques are not substantive or, if you prefer, constructive. I say "we," but in reality, CCOAs are not really attempting a dialogue with academics in the first place, which helps explain why most academics, I suspect, give CCOAs little thought.

Withywindle's response - which is either his own critique of academia, as a conservative academic, or his summary of what he thinks the critiques out there consist of, so if you are Withywindle, please clarify - provides a bit more material to work with. This in particular: "We should not waste time on pop culture, peasant studies, black studies, womens' studies, gay studies, postmodern physics, etc."

The "etc." suggests that the list of areas of study are all of a piece, and that they are all equally ridiculous. These are two pretty big assumptions. Googling "postmodern physics," one finds conservative critiques of it far more easily than anything from this (alleged?) field. Pop culture, meanwhile, is its own thing, and there's a good chance even the leftiest of lefty profs would rather teach Shakespeare than "Two and a Half Men."

As for the rest, it's usually fuzzy whether what conservatives oppose is academic research into literature or history involving subjects with blood lines less illustrious than Louis XIV or who are of interest because we want to know about daily life in another time and place (Withywindle, this would include those chaste male Greek nomads), or the disciplinary nebulousness that "studies" can sometimes (but, ahem, does not necessarily) entail. In Withywindle's case, or in the case of Withywindle's theoretical CCOA, it seems more the latter ("We should teach Great Books, Great Men, Great Events, Great Discoveries [...]"), which I don't think is a supportable position. I mean, yes, these things should be there, but how is one college student face-to-face with Mill an education? I'm not even sure what it means to teach great men, events, or discoveries without getting into any fluff. Wouldn't we soon run out of dates of battles and such to commemorate? I mean, we can learn random things about Napoleon's childhood because the man ended up being kind of a big deal, or move on to somewhat less great men...

The latter has a bit more to it, but again, one is left with the question of how avoiding questions of race, class, or gender furthers our knowledge even of high culture. I mean, fine, let's study Proust only for representations of Art and Time, giving him the Great Man applause he so deserves, and ignore anything to do with homosexuality and Jewishness not merely in his life, but also in his oeuvre. It's surely of no academic interest whatsoever how "Jewish" was defined in salons during the Dreyfus Affair, because this would not go on to have any impact on anything of interest historically.

Or, in less roundabout terms, race, gender, and class are valid avenues of inquiry. Studying them tells us about human existence. Are students ever instructed to find a race, class, or gender angle where there is none? Sure, but then the student points this out, and problem solved. That not every topic has a strong race, class, and gender angle does not invalidate these topics for all. Nor is the correct answer on a student's part to decompensate about how PC academia is - a better (and dare I say, more conservative, in that it assumed the older person higher up on the totem pole is right) approach would be to see if perhaps there is a race, gender, or class angle, and if not, to have the intellectual get-up-and-go to explain why not. To equate all courses that deal with these issues with ones on "pop culture"... gets us at what PG commented, about how, if conservatives won't teach about the civil rights movement, someone who isn't a conservative will have to teach that class.

The broader problem, if Withywindle has summed up conservative opinion and not merely his own, is that the conservative critique ends up being less about nonsense-elimination, and more about advocating that we understand less about the world, for fear of letting the forces of PC win even a small victory. Meanwhile, whatever political sentiments may have been the impetus for the expansion of "history" to include things beyond Great Strapping Men, broadening a focus beyond Great Wars and Lightbulb Invention has been productive. Why can't conservatives just have their own approach to studying race, gender, and class? They seem happy enough to comment on these matters outside of academia. There's obviously the factor of, they don't want to feel excluded at cocktail parties. There is also the not insignificant matter of CCOAs having drilled it into the heads of young conservative college students that the academy is worthless and best avoided.

Conservatism, of course, houses a mishmash of anti-elitist suspicion of book-learning and stodgiest Great Books elitism. Conservatives are furious at the university both because it's fancy-schmancy and more challenging than Fox News and because it isn't the refined sherry-and-cigar club where Mayflower descendants can read Locke and Hobbes that it once was. Granted, not every conservative purports to speak from both seemingly contradictory vantage points simultaneously. However, the two inform each other insofar as the Great-Books critique is typically infused with a heavy dose of 'but who cares about whatever nonsense goes on in academia anyway because it's a bunch of worthlessness for women who should be making babies and men who should be working with their hands.' Add to that the general discomfort of social conservatives over the fact that college women are having The Premarital Intercourse. Basically, hating the university is a great unifier for at least three of the major kinds of conservatives. It's much more productive, I guess, for conservatives to hate on academia than for them to make academia hospitable to conservatives.

20 comments:

Withywindle said...

1. Withywindle's response - which is either his own critique of academia, as a conservative academic, or his summary of what he thinks the critiques out there consist of, so if you are Withywindle, please clarify.

To repeat: I think it would be worth outlining what I take to be a great many different conservative critiques of academia .... I think all these critiques have some bite.

2. You talk about what conservatives conceive defenders of academia to think; this is all getting highly meta and speculative. I think there is a mixture of the willfully perverse, those indifferent to perversity, and those unwilling, for a variety of reasons, to do anything to restrain the willfully perverse. This is how I characterize a great deal of human activity; mostly, partisans simplify “unwilling to restrain” as “endorsement”. As a political matter, I think this simplification, in all areas of human life, is essentially correct; and that it is here too. But I cannot speak for any other conservative critic of academia in this formulation.

3. You take CCOA’s not to be sincerely interested in academia, even as revolutionaries—to have crossed, so to speak, the line between Jewish self-criticism and anti-Semitism. (Ah, studies of early Christianity; ever-useful for analogies.) I don’t know. It’s plausible that some portion is—I don’t have any surefire markers in my mind to distinguish helpful critique from antipathetic disdain, and I think it’s possible we would disagree on particular cases. (It’s also possible for academics to take loving, if harsh, critique as simple antipathy, as a way to ignore the substance of the critique.) And you can be highly antipathetic to the visible church of academia while esteeming the invisible church of what it should be. That might be a way to classify Epstein (whom we started with)—who, although not an entirely estimable writer, I would take to have some basic love for the academic enterprise, as he thinks it should be conducted. But if you’re an academic, I can see where you’d not be thrilled by the “I love academia, but not academics” line of argument.

4. You spend a great deal of time on my Excellent This-and-That argument, which was my attempt to condense Epstein and the Epsteinites. The usual Epsteinian riposte to your parry is that there is limited time for study, especially in university, and that a university should highly prioritize the excellent over the non-excellent. Since the excellent includes far more than you could possibly have read in four years in Heidelberg in the 1920s, much less the reading loads of these decadent time, then there is a strong case for focusing on the excellent in undergraduate education, since you will not exhaust the well.

Withywindle said...

5. How is one college student face-to-face with Mill an education?

Umm ... didn’t you go to U Chicago? I think they have an answer to that question.

6. Race, gender, and class are valid avenues of inquiry.

There are different lines of critique here. One is that these are all too frequently impositions an intent scholar imposes on the subject, that obscure human existence more than they illuminate it. Another is that the question is not of validity, but of importance; that one is free to ask any question one likes, but a university need not provide it the funding or the imprimatur of more than the occasional tenure-track line.

7. If conservatives won't teach about the civil rights movement, someone who isn't a conservative will have to teach that class.

I did feel inhibitions about explaining just how important black rioting and crime in the 1960s and 1970s was for alienating the sympathies of the white majority. I wonder if the euphemistic sketch I provided was more than most other teachers give.

8. I do think a great deal of what you are interested in is the subject matter of research; a great deal of the CCOA’s focus on teaching. Research on what-have-you would matter less if it didn’t distort the broader synthesis—the meaning of what one learns, its place in the broader scheme of knowledge. Greater information, if distorting of perspective, is not necessarily an improvement. And of course it’s not simply a question of broadening, but of the heart-blood of history & literature being abandoned (scarce resources what they are) to fund the peripheral; of the heart-blood being mistaught, if only by being insufficiently taught.

9. There is also the not insignificant matter of CCOAs having drilled it into the heads of young conservative college students that the academy is worthless and best avoided.

How many conservative eighteen-year-olds are there who, otherwise likely to have thought highly of the academy, are persuaded by CCOA’s to avoid the academy? How important are such CCOA’s likely to be in comparison with their own experiences in the next four years?

Phoebe said...

Don't have time to get to more of this now... "To repeat: I think it would be worth outlining what I take to be a great many different conservative critiques of academia .... I think all these critiques have some bite." I don't know why I was thrown off. Maybe the tone of conviction, maybe the lack of links or references to specific commentators who make these claims? My point wasn't to criticize, but to figure out whether I should be addressing "Withywindle" or "CCOA as assessed by Withywindle." Anyway, thanks for spelling it out!

Daniel Goldberg said...

One of the best posts ever on WWPD. Thanks.

Britta said...

(this is totally unrelated, but I think you should know about the existence of this site: http://www.uchicagohookups.com/index.php)

Will share my (probably copious) thoughts on CCOA once I finish my paper...

PG said...

How do these metrics of excellence work, exactly? If you want to assign Tolstoy, is "War and Peace" more excellent than "Anna Karenina" because the former is about Important Events while the latter is about an adulteress and a guy trying to get recently-freed serfs to become modern farm-workers? Is a lecture course on the Napoleonic Wars concluding with a multiple-choice exam more excellent than a seminar on the Cold War in the Third World that requires students to do innovative research (I still have a box of xeroxes from NARA of diplomatic cables during the 1971 Communist coup in the Sudan)?

Fundamentally, I believe primary and secondary education are for laying the broad based foundation of basic facts, while the university is for the pursuit of knowledge that one finds interesting/useful, in the service of becoming a person who can do real work. There are no multiple choice exams in the real world, but there are requirements to read original sources and synthesize them to provide information to others.

Considering how much employers complain about new graduates' difficulties with critical thinking and effective communication, if making the subject matter of a course something the kids will connect with -- e.g. "Jersey Shore" -- creates an effective conduit for improving skills, then I'm OK with that. An analysis of the conflicting tropes of Italian-American identity, so long as it's well-argued and well-written, will do more for a student than another half-internet-cribbed summary of The Great Gatsby will.

Withywindle said...

PG: "Metrics of excellence" is a phrase that wonderfully distills the inaptness of scientific measures to the field of aesthetics. For your answer, I direct you to the last several centuries of aesthetic philosophy. Briefly, though, deference to traditional judgment of excellence has been a strong enough argument that excellence and tradition have very often been allied. For a university education, this alliance may be more than usually apt--although, as noted before, the alliance is not inherent. Your next questions get into philosophy of history; here, the alliance of excellence with education to instill character is another traditional answer with much weight; again, though, not an essential alliance. Your philosophy of education differs in basics from many of the CCOAs. "Facts" has a Gradgrindian sound to it.

Flavia said...

Coming to this late. I'll just add that in my anec-datal experience, the argument made by some (some!) CCOAs in favor of a traditional canon often turns out to be less about preserving a canon that is, indeed, historically and aesthetically central (the teaching of which I fully support), than it is an easy way of dismissing the study of women and minority writers as inherently frivolous, marginal, and/or a sign of some kind of dangerous "politicization" (as if the neglect or writing of certain people out of the canon weren't itself a political act).

I work on extremely minor writers, and even more minor works, but they are all white Christian men writing about religion and politics. And I get an awful lot of pats on the head from a certain kind of older, white-bearded conservative (both inside and outside of the academy) for my intriguing work "recovering" these neglected 17th C. voices. Which is nice and all, I suppose. But I never hear these same people saying anything that isn't eye-roll-y and dismissive about scholars in my period who work on, say, women's letters or recipe books.

The lesson I've drawn is that the works of marginal white men are always at least potentially interesting, and always assumed to have the potential to tell us something important about their time period. The works of women and minorities are subject to much stricter scrutiny, and their study/teaching regarded as potentially suspect--the result of "political correctness"--just because they're women and minorities.

Withywindle said...

(as if the neglect or writing of certain people out of the canon weren't itself a political act).

A great deal does turn on whether the Aemilia Lanyers were justly neglected; whether "political act" may be an unjustified argument. I suppose I do take just neglect for all uncanonical writers as a reasonable default position, and desire convincing arguments to the contrary. And how shall I put it? Do you really think there has been no special critical pleading for the Lanyers and Behns in the last generation? That there is no justification whatsoever for categorical wariness?

PG said...

Your philosophy of education differs in basics from many of the CCOAs.

I'm getting a much stronger impression of that from this discussion than I'd ever gotten before (I'd previously felt some sympathy for conservative critiques that questioned why the government should subsidize college-level "learning for the sake of learning"). To the extent that Epstein and his ilk begin not just with fundamentally different values than mine, but with a belief that marginalized groups' histories, writings etc. must have been left out of the canon for totally non-identity-based reasons, perhaps there must be some reconciliation on the disputed facts before progress can be made.

Britta said...

I wrote a comment that I thought posted but then got eaten, so I'll try to summarize. Drawing on PG and Flavia, I think one of the problems is underlying certain ideas of excellence is the implicit assumption that the experience of white males is universal, and the more one deviates from being a white male, the more narrow and irrelevant your experience is.

Related to this is the view that if a scholar studies the writings of white men about X, they study X, but if a scholar studies a woman's writings about X, they study "women's X," etc., unless the woman writes explicitly from a white male perspective.

Even though women and POCs make up a vast majority of people on the planet, somehow their experience isn't relevant or worthy of study, and such studies don't contribute to the advancement of human knowledge.

Finally, I find a certain type of conservative critique (maybe not Withywindle's) to be enormously thin-skinned. Women and POCs who are successful in academia must completely internalize reading everything from a white male point of view, yet white men find asking the reverse to be to great a request. Relatedly, women are asked to read past incredible misogyny and sexism, POCs absolutely appalling racism, Jews take seriously the ideas of unrepentant Nazis, etc., but the minute someone writes something even mildly critical of white men, the writer is an Irredeemable Racist whose ideas can have no merit and requiring white people to read them is akin to genocide, etc.

Flavia said...

Withy: my point isn't that Lanyer is a writer comparable to Milton, or as influential as Milton. My point is that her work does tell us something meaningful about the literary and intellectual life of her day.

She did exist and she was read--and so were Margaret Cavendish, Mary Wroth, Katherine Phillips, and others. I may not be a fan of any of them, but I don't have to be. There was a time when it was conventional wisdom to say that there were no female writers in the early modern period, but we now know that these women participated in the same literary, religious, and political culture that we used to think of as all-male (because later readers didn't value their contributions). I think that's a gain for the field as a whole.

Are 17th C. women writers better than many a minor male writer? Rarely. But they each have a few poems that are worth reading. In that, they're no different from someone like Lovelace, who gets anthologized as an important Cavalier poet on the strength of maybe one poem.

The figures on the fringes of the canon are always changing, and always for political reasons. I don't have a problem with that, or with a little overcorrection each times fashions change. The big figures--Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton--are in no danger. It's the little guys like John Suckling and Richard Crawshaw who may drop out. I won't weep for them, particularly.

Flavia said...

Britta: somehow didn't see your comment earlier. But yes--exactly!

Phoebe said...

Britta's eaten comment:

Drawing on Flavia's point, it also seems like there's an assumption that the experience of white European (Christian) men is Universal, whereas everyone else is hopelessly biased and/or applicable in a very specific situation. Thus, say, Jefferson's writings on freedom are universally applicable, but Fanon's are only relevant to black men in a French colonial context, etc. Non-whites and women aren't allowed to write or think about the Human Condition, the way white men are, unless they expressly write from a white male perspective. Even though a majority of people on the planet are female and POCs, the experiences of these people have nothing to contribute to human understanding.

In this way, people who read a white male writing about something are thought to study X, but people who read women writing about about the same thing study "women's X," etc.

Women and POCs who are successful in academia must completely internalize viewing things from a white male perspective, but somehow asking the reverse is totally unreasonable. It's commonplace for women study Dickens, who through focusing on the minute and everyday is seen to be making broad statements on Victorian society, but very few men study Jane Austen, who through focusing on the minute and everyday is clearly only interested in table manners and feelings, etc.

An aside on my final point (which does related to CCOA), is the amazing thin-skinnedness of white men. Women are supposed to read past shocking misogyny and sexism, POCs are asked to excuse absolutely blatant racism, Jews are supposed to read past the Fascism in works of unrepentant Nazis, etc, but whenever a non-white male writes something even mildly critical of white men, the all of a sudden the author is Intolerant and Absolutely Offensive and nothing is redeemable about their works, and requiring white men to read and engage with such ideas is akin to genocide, etc.

Relatedly, making white people learn about the shitty things their ancestors did is also racist and offensive and should never be a part of any history curriculum ever, lest the professor or teacher be branded a white-hating Maoist.

Britta said...

Haha...the long comment is basically just the original version of the shorter comment.

Withywindle said...

PG: To the extent that Epstein and his ilk begin not just with fundamentally different values than mine, but with a belief that marginalized groups' histories, writings etc. must have been left out of the canon for totally non-identity-based reasons, perhaps there must be some reconciliation on the disputed facts before progress can be made.

I always phrase this in terms of arguments—that the argument to expand the canon ought to have a component without referent to “identity,” but rather to excellence alone; which a fair-minded Epsteinite will be willing (but not required) to accept as possible, and hence set himself the task of assessing the strength of the argument, in terms of excellence alone.

Britta: You assume a category “white male”; also various other categories; and the importance of such categories. (Or take as given previous arguments as to importance of such categories.) You then speak of “implicit assumptions” to universality of this posited category; “implicit” is a wonderfully flexible, nigh-unfalsifiable intellectual tool; this is one of many places where I think these assumptions are more the critics’ than those of the subjects criticized.

You also don’t mention a somewhat different argument: it’s not whether an author is universal, but whether he’s ours. Lady Murasaki may be just ducky, but she’s not at the wellspring of our particular tradition, as Homer is. This argument takes the particularism of cultural tradition to matter far more than the putative particularities of R---, C----, and G-----.

I am willing to condemn wholesale all use of the word “universal,” by all concerned. Unfalsifiable hyperbole. I don’t think it’s necessary to arguments of excellence.

“Relevance,” again, has various dubious assumptions; usually that our tiny, present-minded concerns are the ultimate measure of value.

And what if the Zulus had no Tolstoy, and the Papuans no Proust? -- surely not every nation has a Novelist of Note? Are we never to take account of this in our canon construction?

You posit a Thin-Skinned Critic who I suppose must exist, but I am not sure is either numerous or typical. Do all conservatives get into conniptions about Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson? Did they really get into the canon over the apoplectic protests of serried conservative critics? And then this horrible request to “read past incredible misogyny and sexism”--do you mean, to ask you to say something more about a medieval author’s work than that he didn’t have modern attitudes toward women? This request seems innocuous. To ask you not to notice that he doesn’t have modern attitudes toward women? This request seems unlikely.

Flavia: I think my larger point would be that some significant number of revisionist critics have made larger claims than you have, and that a natural, and not unjustified, consequence is to be suspicious of all such claims, since too many have proved parti-pris puffery.

Your argument is also not one of excellence as such, but of a knowledge of context. Historical knowledge, broadly put. I should say that none of the CCOA’s I anatomized particularly aligns with the search for historical knowledge. (Under which we can subsume a great deal of the stuff Britta seems to value.) I suppose I would add here my usual steal-from-Strauss—that historicization should not involve a superior attitude to the past; that one should historicize oneself, and be open to the arguments of the texts of the past, as having live power. Ultimately, I follow Gadamer and subsume this under virtue education—but this may be dodgy practice on my part. (And contradicts what I said a few sentences ago, to boot.)

We can boot Suckling, but I’d rather keep Crashaw.

Britta said...

Withywindle:
If you want to have "our" canon, that's perfectly acceptable, but then it needs to be identified as such: the Western European canon, or something like that. Calling it "the canon" is Eurocentric. Secondly, if you're going to claim universality, what basis is it on? That Keats can uniquely get at truth and beauty in a way that resonates with all humankind in a way that no one else somewhere else could? That Aristotle's contributions to ethics get at the human condition better than Confucius's? You're shifting around, on one hand defending universal excellence, on the other defending cultural parochialism.

On your second point, maybe not so much anymore, but there have been conservatives who were in conniptions over Jane Austen as part of the canon (or, depending on the canon, Simone DeBeauvoir or Hannah Arendt, or other similar penis-free individuals). Once you get away from dead white European women, the conniptions get greater. Toni Morrison is not widely accepted as part of the canon, even though other contemporary white male authors are accepted with barely a comment. Can you make an argument that she is not "ours?" If not "ours," then what is the appropriate context to read her in?

My point is, even as a woman or a non-white person who is part of Western/European culture, you have to be twice as good to get even half as much respect or consideration for one's work, this has been more the case historically, and is still true today.

Finally, on thin-skinnedness, yes, I am exactly talking about that. As someone who is hopefully on track to being a successful academic, I can read and identify with men who wouldn't consider me worthy of basic conversation without batting an eye, or without even noticing, or sometimes, with total identification on my part. (The internalized hatred and disassociation that goes along with this could be a whole different comment.) Back on point, I have found that white men generally aren't willing to do the reverse. I have found very few white men are willing to read the works of people who 1) categorically dislike Europeans/white people 2) categorically dislike men. Even well-founded criticisms based on the terrible things Europeans have done around the globe are considered to be texts full of hatred and reverse racism, and thus thrown out. If women and POCs are asked to read generously the works of people who despise them and consider them to be less than fully human, what is so wrong about demanding the reverse from white men?

Withywindle said...

A longish-comment I sent got eaten; if it could be resurrected, I'd be grateful.

Britta said...

While everyone waits for Withywindle's comment to be resurrected, it looks like inside higher ed is having a similar conversation. I didn't read through it all, but maybe someone here would:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/03/21/new_studies_back_theory_that_the_professoriate_is_liberal_because_of_self_selection

Phoebe said...

Withywindle's eaten comment:

Britta: Calling it "the canon" is Eurocentric. Oh, heaven forfend. And wordiness in labeling is dull.

To repeat: I’m perfectly happy to junk the claim of universality. I think Universality is part of the Evil Platonist plot to impose unspeakably impossible ideals on humanity, and that it should be batted down by all right-thinking Aristotelian people. But Evil Platonism is a remarkably large part of the Western mental map—why, radicals, liberals, conservatives, and reactionaries all resort to it! I’m not defending claims to universality, although I suspect it creeps around all our mental maps.

I’m more interested in pervading influence, and traditional acknowledgments of excellence. Universals we will leave to the trumps of doom.

I’m not sure how much mileage you get out of being outraged by a Dead White Male Critic from 1850 who Failed to Exclude Austen from the Canon.

As for Morrison: I do indeed strongly suspect that, regardless of the quality of her work, she was given a Nobel Prize because she was a Black Woman; the Nobel Prize committees not notoriously inhabited by Epsteinites, and their track record poor. (Tolstoy, no, Undset, yes? Oy.) The only book of hers I’ve read is Beloved, which I took 1) to deserve a Pulitzer, for general high quality; and 2) not immediately to scream Nobel. I would reserve judgment on canonicity for a minimum of fifty years, and a preference for a century lag. I’ve never heard or read anyone say “Oh, that Thomas Pynchon of course is part of the Canon, but Toni Morrison isn’t.” As to whether she is part of the Western tradition: she’s writing a novel, it’s difficult for her to escape it. I’m perfectly happy to claim her as part of it, while, as I say, reserving judgment as to her place within it.


My point is, even as a woman or a non-white person who is part of Western/European culture, you have to be twice as good to get even half as much respect or consideration for one's work, this has been more the case historically, and is still true today.

One would need to argue cases. I am skeptical of it as a general proposition.


If women and POCs are asked to read generously the works of people who despise them and consider them to be less than fully human, what is so wrong about demanding the reverse from white men?

Nothing, in principle. But it is also: read X, of traditionally acknowledged excellence, and enduring influence; vs. read Y, usually of the last century, with no such acknowledgments of excellence or influence. Do you have examples of works skeptical of white men as such, written before 1800, possessing acknowledged quality and influence, that white men (who are all one; D. H. Lawrence tells us so) refuse to read?