Accusing Dead Writers of Bigotry

Posted on December 16, 2009

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While I understand that we shouldn’t pretend lionized lit figures of the past were perfect and did not harbor many of the same nasty biases as their non-famous-writer contemporaries, it seems a bit silly to a) discount the entire work of a talented author because of periodic evidence of racism/misogyny/whathaveyou (do you honestly think that people aren’t going to look back at great books (blog posts?) of 2009 and not wince at half the things we say?) or to b) write entire critical essays with endnotes and lots of words like ‘hegemony’ just to prove that, yes, famous writers from the 1950s were not as enlightened, racially or gender-wise, as us shining examples of equality here in 2009. I appreciate the effort, but I do not need an annotated list of every dumb thing Jack Kerouac ever said about the Jews. Is anyone really reading about late-period, drinking-self-to-death Kerouac calling up Ginsberg dead drunk at 4 am and shouting racial slurs at him and thinking “hmm, well Kerouac did it…” ?

It just seems like another way of closing doors that don’t need to be closed. Not to be too heavyhanded but are we going to stop reading the ancient Greeks just because man-boy eros is out of style these days?

Alternately, remove the content of this post and replace it with “= shooting fish in a barrel”

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