English Matters

Let’s Commit Curiosity

Thank you to Jason Haslam, Chair of the Department of English at Dalhousie University (and ACCUTE past president) for responding so eloquently and forcefully to Margaret Wente’s recent column about Dalhousie and English literature studies in Canada more broadly. Curiosity matters and ACCUTE supports our colleagues at Dalhousie and across the country in cultivating that curiosity. — Jennifer Andrews, President of ACCUTE


headshot Jhaslam

First, as Chair of English at Dalhousie, I’d like to thank everyone who has written in support of us after Margaret Wente’s column appeared in the Globe and Mail. Do of course read it if interested, but I implore everyone not to feed G&M revenue by clicking on this execrable piece too often. Her “opinions” seem designed to do one thing: polarize people into warring camps, and through that anger generate eyeballs on G&M’s advertisers. And she often succeeds, and so does it again, and again, and again. For that simple reason, at first I didn’t want to respond to her column, because I believed it would just mean fitting ourselves into a pre-arranged role in a tired dog-and-pony show.

But, colleagues and students made me realize I was wrong about not replying, because we need to stand with our students in offering a vigorous response, especially given the easily heard racist dog whistles of her column. I and several of my colleagues have written letters to the editor as part of this effort. Please add your own if so inclined.

But, second, on a personal note—if I can take off my Chair hat (it chafes sometimes; I’m delicate)—as an individual scholar I also want to say this: our department and university absolutely value diversity, but I’d be thrilled if we were able to do a much better job at it, continuing always to expand the diversity of our programs at every level and in every way. We don’t need to defend ourselves against Wente’s spurious claims; we need to double down on what we do. Nothing would make me personally happier than to have a program that makes Margaret Wente shudderingly, inconsolably uncomfortable, simply because that would mean it more fully and accurately reflects the growing and ever diversifying field of English Studies as new and previously silenced authors, texts, approaches, and contexts, past and present, make themselves heard.

Let’s walk past the braying calls for a bounded and bordered ignorance and into an open space resounding with an ever more complex cacophony of voices. Let’s commit curiosity.

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