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Colleges’ open minds close door on sense (buffy mention)

Mary Grabar

Friday 4 August 2006, by Webmaster

University of Georgia professor Betty Jean Craige surely must know the rules of good writing as taught in freshman composition: One needs to back up points with specific evidence and support. But this professor of comparative literature gets an F due to obfuscation and PR-speak for her Aug. 2 opinion column "New ideas must flourish at colleges" (@issue).

Most parents who send their children off to college have no idea of what is being taught in the humanities classes: pornography appreciation, analyses of the clothing of transvestites, Native American scalp dances, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I am not kidding.

Mary Grabar teaches English at Clayton State University.

Journals considered prestigious publish papers such as an analysis of abortion as "performance art" and bondage in lesbian sex acts. I came across this type of "scholarship" while writing my dissertation.

Craige claims, "New ideas about nature and society will always threaten traditional ways of understanding the world," and she implies that those of us who object to the radicalism on college campuses are creationist Neanderthals. But let’s see if providing some support by way of specific examples will contradict Craige’s thesis.

Let’s look at the American Literature Association conference, which I attended in May. I sat in on such panels: "La Reconquista: The Application of Latina/o Studies to U.S. Literature(s) & Criticism" (where an up-and-coming young Latina professor gave instructions and sample syllabi on how to make a survey class on American literature into a class devoted to Latina/o literature and issues), "Teaching the Arts of American Protest" on social protest literature (yes, a how-to on teaching literature as a form of social protest), and a film and literature panel, where the intellectually challenging paper "Female Sexualities Revised in ’Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and Anita Blake Series" was delivered. (The Anita Blake Series is a series of graphic novels, i.e., with pictures).

A perusal of literary calls for papers from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 reveals:

• Hard to Swallow: Reading Pornography on Screen

• An anthology of essays on "Brokeback Mountain"

• Michael Moore: The Documentary Tradition

• Papers for a roundtable discussion on Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth"

• "Sexing the Text": The description reads, " Do we consider Britney Spears kissing Madonna subversive? What about transgendered narratives? Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie? Slash fiction? . . . ."

Imagine these instructions from a college professor and you will understand what we "conservative activists" object to:

"OK, class, let’s look at our worldviews. What do you think of Britney Spears kissing Madonna? What does that act say about gender roles? Write a three-page paper and remember: Papers that do not display an open-mindedness will fail."