Monday, August 29, 2022

What Does This Have to Do with Philosophy?

 I love the mouseover here.

I'll admit I enjoyed reading Rowling's mystery novels (published under the name Robert Galbraith), but it's in the same way that I enjoy reading Faulkner -- I have to wince my way past the bigotry. 

Virginia Woolf wrote about how Jane Eyre was a flawed work because Bronte kept bringing feminism into the novel -- how she couldn't stop herself from inserting little rants about how women are people just like men are people. I disagree with Woolf, finding the bits about feminism in Jane Eyre both interesting and a legitimate part of Jane's character. They're also part of the plot -- throughout the novel, Jane searches for a way that she can live as a human being, rather than an object used by those around her for their own ends. (That's why she can't marry St. John Rivers, for instance -- he doesn't want a companion or a wife, he wants a tool he can use for his own ends, which he sees as God's ends.)

On the other hand, the bits of bigotry in Faulkner and in Rowling's Galbraith novels aren't interesting -- they're disgusting and disturbing; they may indeed have something to do with the characters, if you're interested in characters whose bigotry is meant to be admirable; and they're entirely extraneous to the plot. I've heard people defend Faulkner because that's "just how it was" back then, but there are plenty of writers (see Sinclair Lewis, for example) writing at the same time who manage not to be disgusting bigots.

Anyway, I still read Faulkner from time to time; and I read Bronte and Dorothy Sayers despite their anti-Semitism; but there's no denying I find it harder and harder to put up with bigotry in these works, and more and more often I reach, instead, for works which don't contain such bigotry, or those which interrogate it rather than expecting us to find it heroic or cute or "just how it is."


nicoleandmaggie said...

I agree with the comic's philosophy.

Side note: DC1 spent Saturday playing boardgames with hir best friend from K-6 who just kind of disappeared from DC1's life even though they went to the same high school and DH and DC1 would go over to her house and sometimes play boardgames with her parents and older brother (or pre-pandemic parents and brother would come here). This is the first time they spent real time together since middle school and I can't help but connect it to DC1's friend being out as a transwoman now and DC1 finding out and not being a jerk about it the last time DH and DC1 went over.

I hate JK Rowling and evil Republicans and TERFs et al. SO MUCH.

Agreed that the feminism in Jayne Eyre is the point-- she won't marry Rochester until he's been humbled/punished (though presumably she'd have been happy if he hadn't been blinded etc.) and, importantly, she has her own money. It's a free choice made as equals.

I have noticed that the books with staying power tend to be less bigoted than those without. The sequel to Three Men in a Boat is never read anymore-- it starts with a completely pointless and undeniably racist Black caricature. All that's left of the book in our cultural conscience are bits and pieces that made it into cartoons and other media without the racism. PG Wodehouse has some pretty sickening stuff that's no longer published. Ditto Dr. Seuss.

delagar said...

I too hate TERFs. They're not just bigots, they're dishonest bigots. "We just want to be able to tell the truth about reality," they explain, when actually of course they just want to be bigots without having to be shunned for it.

Good for DC1, btw!

Foscavista said...

Since I push early-modern Spanish literature whenever I can, may I suggest María de Zayas's "Disenchantments of Love" ("Desengaños amorosos")? Although the stories contained within it become repetitive/formulaic, students enjoy how the author can insert some aspect of feminism/proto-feminism that 17th-century Spain could/would allow. The text is a sequel, but you don't know have to read the first part; the prologue summarizes everything fringe it, since there is a somewhat large gap between the publication dates of the two parts.

delagar said...

Thank you! My bookstore couldn't get Whale Rider, so I've been looking for a fifth book for my Global Lit class. I'll have a look at this one.

nicoleandmaggie said...

Not being a jerk shouldn't be cause for praise, but here we are!

So much makes sense now though-- the friend's parent texted DH freshman year to ask if DC1's transition was going as poorly as friend's was and things got worse for her sophomore year. But now that she is out everything is so much better, even though our state is making it awful. I really hope she goes out of state for college.

delagar said...

My kid's BFF from high school misgenders the kid constantly -- I've corrected them twice, but they continue to do so. Since they're a conservative Christian, I assume it's deliberate. Nothing says "I love Jesus" like embracing bigotry.

nicoleandmaggie said...

That sucks. :(

Foscavista said...

Well, if you really want to make things spicy, have your students read Catalina de Erauso's "Lieutenant Nun" ("La monja alférez"). It's an autobiography of a Basque novice who flees the convent, travels to the Americas, identifies and dresses as a man, enlists in the Spanish troops, has a female lover, etc. It is a short read.

delagar said...

That sounds like exactly what I'm looking for!