Among a variety of recent diversity initiatives, the Department of English successfully advertised for a tenure-stream appointment in Indigenous Literature and Culture; presented to the Faculty of Arts and Science a detailed proposal for a cluster hire in Black Studies; and submitted a second proposal for a tenure-stream appointment in the 19th Century Black Atlantic. Though neither of the latter bids was approved, we are confident that the University will respond again to our promotion of such priorities. We have submitted to the Faculty a Letter of Intent detailing a proposal for an Interdisciplinary Minor in Black Studies, supported by the Departments of Geography and History, and are now preparing the formal proposal.
The Department consults with its student associations on matters of curricular development, but note that, by citing only those courses that explicitly and exclusively treat issues of race, gender, and sexuality, your 3 October editorial elides their pervasiveness in the English curriculum. It is not only our courses on e.g. African Literature, Caribbean Literature, Gender and Sexuality, etc. that historicize and theorize these issues, so too do those on traditional subjects, such as Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. This is no less true of our courses on the graphic novel, electronic media, and literary theory. Our required Introduction to Literary Studies outlines theories of race, sexuality, and gender. Any synoptic, national or historical subject we teach is the occasion for sustained treatment of these issues. The editorial did not mention, for instance, our courses on Modernism and American Postmodernism; yet, though the editorial may neglect the fundamental contributions of African-American writers to modernist and postmodernist literature, these courses most certainly do not.
Whether or not it should be axiomatic, as the editorial proposes, that courses on subjects directly concerning BIPOC students “should be taught by those who identify as such” or “should be led by black professors,” such insistence would prevent us from offering those courses until the University endorses our requests for further hires in these areas. Furthermore, all of us want to avoid a patronizing racial calculus whereby those members of visible minorities on our faculty would be typecast to teach according to pigment.
Students continue to play a signal role in fostering a responsible, effective, and compelling policy of inclusive excellence in our department, for which your impetus is appreciated.
Andre Furlani, Chair
Department of English