In 2011, the University of California at Los Angeles wrecked its English major. Such a development may seem insignificant, compared with, say, the federal takeover of health care. It is not. What happened at UCLA is part of a momentous shift that bears on our relationship to the past—and to civilization itself.
Gosh. The UCLA English Department is tons more influential than I'd imagined. They control "Civilization itself," presumably when it's at home, the fuckers.
Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton —the cornerstones of English literature.
English Literature is an edifice built on three cornerstones. Have you never wondered why English Literature is a building that is a triangle? Probably not, you unscrubbed guttersnipe. That is because you don't grasp the sound architectural principle that Shakespeare counts twice and is double cornerstones, no backsies.
Also, Milton? Most of Milton sucks. Oh, he has his moments, sure, I will not deny the man that, fair play to him, but much of Paradise Lost (and all of his other shit books nobody ever wants to bring up) is laughable garbage, and everyone knows it. Milton is maybe 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, and, thus, is smelly.
But my personal prejudices unimpeachably correct literary analyses aside, what the hell is Heather Mac Donald whining about...?
Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the "Empire," UCLA junked these individual author requirements. It replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing.
In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to "alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class."
Yeah, well, no, probably not. I'm certainly not arsed enough to care sufficiently about UCLA's English major requirements to go check them, but I'm pretty sure if you major in English at UCLA, you'll meet Shakespeare at some point. And Chaucer too. You'll only meet Milton if you like mostly horrible bullshit.
Look, Shakespeare and Chaucer largely advertise themselves to the sort of people who like English classes. These are fun authors. I took medieval lit courses, and Shakespeare courses, because I was an English lit geek, and I still AM an English lit geek.
The point is, is that it is preposterous to assume that a UCLA English major interested in, say, "Sexuality Studies," will never ever read Shakespeare. If you read or act in a Shakespeare play, and you don't get a lesson in sexuality... well, you fail.
The "Great Authors" curriculum model is silly, because the whole thing is based upon an ideological construction that is all my left nut.
The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilization of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his or her own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.
Uh, so we English perfessers should stop being Smaug and should share more?
Identity and class politics are shallow? So, in the sonnets, say, Shakespeare ignores such things, as well as sex and sexual identity? We're supposed to read Heart of Darkness as a fishing trip gone awry?
Course catalogs today babble monotonously of group identity. UCLA's undergraduates can take courses in Women of Color in the U.S.; Women and Gender in the Caribbean; Chicana Feminism; Studies in Queer Literatures and Cultures; and Feminist and Queer Theory.
A lot of silliness about the Renaissance, and then this hard-shat Diamond Turd:
The American Founders drew on an astonishingly wide range of historical sources and an appropriately jaundiced view of human nature to craft the world's most stable and free republic. They invoked lessons learned from the Greek city-states, the Carolingian Dynasty and the Ottoman Empire in the Constitution's defense. And they assumed that the new nation's citizens would themselves be versed in history and political philosophy.
Kind of a drag then that they missed the whole "slavery is bad" thing.
Ultimately, humanistic study is the loving duty we owe those artists and thinkers whose works so transform us. It keeps them alive, as well as us, as Petrarch and Poggio Bracciolini understood. And as politics grow ever more unmoored from reality, humanist wisdom provides us with some consolation: There is no greater lesson from the past than the intractability of human folly.
This is why the Lesson of Shakespeare is "defend traditional sexuality categories made up in the 19th century, you sissy queens!"