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Top Authors or Books Lists and Accusations of Bias

This is good. It speaks to a harmful, knee-jerk reaction we are trained to in this culture by our p.c. masters. I got this from Alan Jacobs, but it is by D.G. Myers. The entire post can be found here. Perhaps good to keep in mind with all the year-end “Top ____” posts. I plan to do that soon, perhaps. So consider this cover. 🙂 -Sam

“‘The universal reaction to book lists,’ I wrote a few days ago, ‘is annoyance over what has been left out.’ I should have added: followed immediately by an accusation of bias. If you don’t happen to think very highly of a writer—and if, because space limitations make explanation impossible, you are silent about the writer—you will be said to hold a grudge against the class to which the writer belongs. Worse yet, if you fail to mention a sufficient number of members of the writer’s class, although the required proportion remains vague and undefined, you will be dismissed as irredeemably intolerant if not bigoted toward the entire class.

“I don’t know why it took so long for me to figure out what was going on. The accusation of bias has been leveled against me so often that I no longer take it seriously. Only recently, though, did it strike me that the accusation is more than simply a moral fashion. It is a learned response, an intellectual commonplace, picked up in school and college like mono or herpes. It is the voice of the academic literary guild, stripped of any theoretical sophistication, coming from the mouths of latter-day undergraduates who still hope for their professors’ approval.

“Race, class, and gender (and their substitutes and equivalents, adopted by outsiders eager to get in on the game) have finally completed the tendency that Mencken observed so long ago. Their invocation no longer makes it hard to talk about a book’s intrinsic qualities. They have made it so that such talk, when it occasionally occurs, sounds like a dead language. Nobody understands what is being said, and assumes the worse. For any critical discussion that refuses to cloth itself in the vocabulary of race, class, and gender is nothing else—can be nothing else—than an expression of naked bias.

“So much for literature.”

D.G. Myers

3 Comments

  1. For the record, I have tried to avoid an S.D. Smith-less “Books read in 2010” list, but I wasn’t provided any reading materials. I cannot be held responsible for your omission from my list. 🙂

  2. For the record, I accused you of bias because I have met you and know for a fact that you do not like women writers. Just kidding! The truth is that you are afraid of women writers, isn’t that so? Seriously, I think your article and the guy who wrote it may be catching on to something. Also, I am very indecisive and I am always trying to make things equal, that is why I don’t make “best of lists.” Well that, and the fact that I am a girl.

  3. You are cool, Janna. I can’t wait to read anything you write!

    I think we’re all prone to this, though I snobbily act like I’m above it (in the post). Rubbish. I just don’t WANT to be like that.

    I do the same thing, look for underrepresented constituencies of what I care about. Mostly, this is lame. Thus, I am lame.

    Write a poem about it!

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