Confessions of an English PhD

I hold a B.A. in English, an M.A. in English Language and Literature, and a PhD in English Language and Literature. My specialties are officially medieval, early modern (Renaissance), and speculative fiction literature. My confession: I think most “great literature” is awful.

Chaucer, I like. But, I prefer Marie de France, Chretien de Troyes, the Gawain-poet, and several anonymous writers. Beowulf, I enjoy.

I read Shakespeare and think he’s important to look at for his influence. However, I don’t particularly care for him. There are others from the era that I like better.

I don’t see why Hardy, Dumas, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and scores of other canonical “great” writers are considered so great. I don’t think it’s because I’m not smart or knowledgable enough, after all I read Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon.

That said, there are classics I enjoy: Poe, Dickens, Wright, Bierce. But, they are pretty few and far between after the 16th century.

I’m much happier reading, researching, writing about current genre greats, or those I consider to be great or even good. Quite frankly, I’ll take Pratchett, Rowling, Heinlein, Gaiman, or Brust over Dumas any day and I’m not ashamed to say it.

English’s Self-Inflicted Wounds – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

And this is one reason I get ticked off that English departments hire five or seven “Postcolonialists” or “African-American Lit” specialists for every one person who specializes in anything from medieval to Victorian. If there’s no foundation in the canon, there’s no way to fully appreciate or understand what the non-canonical (or new canon) are doing or reacting to.

 

And I’ll say that I generally like Morrison, often enjoy Erdrich, and love O’Brien and that almost all of my previous research/writing focus has been non-canonical . . . but I have a reasonably strong canonical background (not the best it could be but, perhaps slightly better than average).