Banishing Literature

I’m very angry right now. The leadership of the Association of Female Hispanic Literature and Culture has been renamed into “Association for the Study of Genders and Sexualities.” The explanation is that we need to be more inclusive.

Of course, nobody cares that this name is not inclusive of me. Because I study literature. That’s what I do, and I refuse to feel bad about it. I don’t study “genders and sexualities.” What am I, a sexologist? 

I’m so angry to see that the word “literature” is being banished from the names of departments and professional associations. Nobody is making us do it. No evil administrator or business person is forcing us to avoid the word “literature” like it’s something shameful. I’m literally shaking with rage. I love this conference. It’s my favorite. And now I don’t think I can come any more because it doesn’t reflect what I do and it would look bizarre on my CV. 

I still don’t understand who it is we are being inclusive of with this new name since every single person here is a literary critic or artist. 


12 thoughts on “Banishing Literature”

  1. What do other profs think?

    Can you write an open letter to the leadership? Would other academics sign it?

    “it would look bizarre on my CV” is a powerful argument.

    I have an idea. Why not rename it into “the Study of Genders and Sexualities in (Female) Hispanic Literature”? Hopefully, it would be inclusive enough.


  2. I have noticed this trend at my university, people keep renaming their courses to remove the word literature and any other words that clearly reference literature (drama, novel, poetry, etc.) from the course titles. The new titles are all strings of words that sound vaguely interesting, but you really have no idea what the course is about unless you read the full course description. So now we have all of these courses with crazy names and you’ll find something in the course listings like “Murder, Revenge, Despair and the Recovery of the Repressed” that sounds like possibly interesting stuff, but could be really anything with that title. When you read the course description it turns out to be a fairly standard survey course and if you know how to dig in the catalog a bit, you find out that it used to be called something straightforward and descriptive like “Readings in 20th Century European Drama”.


  3. You’re right, the new title makes absolutely no sense. “Literature” and “Culture” have very precise meanings, whereas “The Study of Genders and Sexualities” sounds vaguely like a course involving sociology and pseudo-science.

    Do you know if the revised course description will at least make the actual nature of the course clear to prospective students?


  4. My guess is that they probably think that “literature” is assumed to be part of the study of all that stuff. But you can NEVER assume literature is going to be covered. In fact, we’ve gone from requiring 7 credits of literature in our Gen Ed to only requiring 1 in the recent revision. Why my department is not up in arms is absolutely fucking beyond me. Of course, since it’s a religious school, they still have to take 6 credits of theology and 3 credits of philosophy. But one credit literature? Fuck…


  5. Isn’t this part of the de-skilling of academia that Mirowski talks about? Culture and Literature imply study and scholarship while “studies of gender and sexualities” imply ideology rather than scholarship.


  6. They’re also taking out the word “female”, too. Because they want to be inclusive and not leave out the men, who are clearly overlooked when it comes to literary studies and the humanities. I mean, there are so few articles and books being published these days about male writers. sarcasm


  7. A very similar example of departmental name-changing stupidity occurred in the Air Force Medical Services some years back (fortunately after I was already retired):

    Military medical facilities, like their civilian counterparts, have outpatient clinics with familiar titles like “Orthopedic Clinic,” “Pediatric Clinic,” and “Mental Health Clinic.” (Most civilian hospitals use the term “Psychiatric Clinic” instead of “Mental Health Clinic” — in my opinion a more accurate and professional term, since psychiatry is as much a medical specialty as orthopedics or pediatrics — but at least “Mental Health Clinic” is clearly understood.)

    But back in 2001, some genius in the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office responded to complaints from some airbases that being sent to the “Mental Health Clinic” had a stigma attached to it, so the Air Force removed the perceived stigma by CHANGING THE NAME of the clinic to Life Skills Support Center. (No, I’m not making this up!)

    Of course, you don’t eliminate a stigma through mere name change, and the result was that nobody at airbase level had the faintest idea what the “Life Skills Support Center” was. (Did it teach people how to get dressed, prepare meals, balance a checkbook, etc.???)

    The Air Force came to its senses six years later in 2007, and changed the name back to “Mental Health Clinic.”


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