• Anarchist Milk Collective

Should we read the canon?


I had wanted to write an essay that exposed the Western Canon, criticising it for its lack of diversity and its stale nature. The Canon representing for me that long list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males.


My cousin, who was four at the time this happened, once professed proudly to a friend of mine that she was the first non-white person my cousin had ever met. I pictured this serving nicely as an analogy for the problems created by a list of predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males.


My cousin lives in a very rural part of northern England. There are 30 other white people in her school, and nothing but sparse fell side and farms surrounding her for miles and miles. It’s likely that she will only meet other white people in such an environment, meaning her knowledge about the world will be shaped by that secluded and isolated environment and the mainstream media.


I felt emboldened in my mission to reach my conclusion upon seeing a post on Jameela Jamil’s Instagram where she said that if all the people on your feed look like you, the chances are, you’re not not really learning.


If people don’t engage with people from different backgrounds and with different opinions, they won’t learn anything other than what their immediate community knows. So, the danger in only reading the list of books by predominantly white cis-gendered male authors as chosen by predominantly white cis-gendered males is that you are only opened up to a community of cis-gendered white males’ knowledge.


I was feeling pretty pleased with myself until I picked up a big(ish) book in a book shop by Calvino called something like “should we read the Canon” and I thought I should probably read it if I wanted to write the essay currently under discussion.


However, I’m a lousy scholar and because of the book’s big(ish) size I didn’t read it, and it dawned on me that I lacked “the intellectual rigor” to reach the conclusion I so desired to put forward.


And whilst I do sincerely feel that people should broaden their horizons and read as many different books by as many different people as possible, I also noticed that there’s a delightful irony in a cis-gendered white male who aspires to be an author telling people not to read the list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males, despite the fact that the aforementioned cis-gendered white male who aspires to be an author doesn’t really know anything about this list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males.


The essay would have been an inflammatory piece, allowing me to smugly pat myself on the back for being a good, intellectual guy whilst covering up my insecurities - virtue signalling at its very worst.


I know very little about the Canon, and much less about race, gender and sex that you wouldn’t be able to hear from any other London-based liberal metropolitan cis-gendered white male aspiring author.


And if I’m brutally honest, I was anxiously trying to cover up my lack of knowledge on anything written after 1970, since most of what I read comes from the list (referenced above) of books by cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males.


So there’s a further irony in a cis-gendered white male aspiring to be an author telling people not to read a list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males, despite the fact that the aforementioned cis-gendered white male aspiring to be an author doesn’t really know anything about that list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males and the aforementioned cis-gendered white male aspiring to be an author only reads from that list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males.


As such, anything this cis-gendered white male aspiring to be an author might have to say on the topic of the list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors (despite the fact that the aforementioned cis-gendered white male aspiring to be an author doesn’t really know anything about that list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors and the aforementioned cis-gendered white male aspiring to be an author only reads from that list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males) would in fact be covering up for his insecurity that he is a cis-gendered white male aspiring to be an author who only reads from the list of books by predominantly cis-gendered white male authors as chosen by predominantly cis-gendered white males.


You would be best advised to not read anything this cis-gendered white male author might have to say on the matter.


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