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Problems with Elitist Approaches to Great Literature


Yes, I am going to spend the rest of my Literary Life reading only the greatest writers and only the greatest literary works. Ok, but stop and ask yourself: just who decides who the major writers of Western Civilization are and what makes them so “major?”

Does it matter that virtually all the major British, American, and Continental writers usually accepted in the Canon of Great Writers are white males from the middle to upper class in their countries? Just for the sake of this blog post today let’s just consider British writers.

Does it matter to you that nearly all the usual major British Writers were part of the privileged class, the class in power. We hear nothing about the classes out of power, the classes oppressed by these major British writers. Almost all the major British Writers were male. The values assumed in all their writings were gender specific, male values—hence, anti-female values. Does that matter? When a female writer is accepted as a Major British Writer, she tends merely to reflect male values. (After all, it was the males who allowed her to become a Major British Writer.)

Questions, questions. What do you think? Let us all know your thoughts in the comments box.

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