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Havoc Humanities

Oh, the scandal! According to Bwog’s Lit Hum teacher, a positively Virgilian battle took place at a meeting this morning in preparation for this Friday’s final, which is written by committee. Apparently, there is disagreement over how best to torture freshmen.

But besides squabbling over exam content, every two years the syllabus undergoes revision. This year, changes include reading shorter Cervantes works instead of Don Quixote, replacing Medea with the Bacchae, reading bits of the full Divine Comedy rather than all of the Inferno, and replacing King Lear with Hamlet.

Debatable, but not outside the realm of reason. Here, then, is the shocker: adding to the first semester list a play by former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who will be coming to speak next year. Wait—since when did Lit Hum include reading people who are still alive?

Bwog’s teacher has her opinions but stayed out of the drama. “It’s catered,” she said. “I just eat, and smile, and watch it.”

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36 Comments

  • M.R. says:

    @M.R. Not sure if I agree with replacing Quixote- isn’t it in the sylabus as the first western novel?

    One greek play for another. Oh well, no more feminazi-psycho-bitch jokes.

    Alright, Dante Diversification

    Hamlet probably is arguably Shakespeare at is best. But… How the HELL do you teach Hamlet properly in 2 1 hour 50 minute blocks? 3 if your instructor squeezes. Yeesh. The Core’s biggest crime isnt’ cramming in so many dead white people, it’s paying all of them lip service. Alas.

  • no no no says:

    @no no no don quixote must stay. it’s a staple. reading other parts of the divine comedy is okay (in fact, it will help freshies understand dante). but replacing lear with hamlet? bah. everyone reads hamlet in high school. let lear breathe free!

    and vaclav havel? that’s sheer pandering. make it optional or something, or tack it onto the end of second semester instead.

    he may be an ex-president, but that doesn’t make him a dead white male yet!

  • No Quixote or Medea? says:

    @No Quixote or Medea? I thought the idea was to endow us with cultural capital we could use?

  • mat says:

    @mat Still no authors of color; and still no American authors. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass would solve both of these problems, as well as giving first-years a book very much in the tradition of others in the syllabus–Confessions, Montaigne–that has some of the best prose in the language.

  • welllllll says:

    @welllllll Medea was added, dropping the Bachae, three years ago. Seniors read it when we were Frosh. It is just as much canon here as Medea. Also, I think almost everybody did Midnight’s Children when it was being put on here and Rushdie was coming so there is precedent for that too. In other words,this is really not surprising at all.

    1. Euripides says:

      @Euripides I count 2 movie versions of the Bacchae on IMDB. Medea has 12, including ones by Pasolini, Von Trier, and Theo Van Gogh.

  • nooooo says:

    @nooooo baddd changes….booo

  • um says:

    @um don’t people read the life of frederick douglass in 9th grade? i know i did.

  • GH says:

    @GH I still want them to add Crying of Lot 49. Or Beloved. Although I guess a lot of people have read the latter in HS. And why do we read Confessions and Montaigne’s essays anyway? Being “the first” of anything is hardly justification for inclusion. But anyway.

    1. no says:

      @no “beloved” is okay. it wouldn’t be added on merit if it were written by a white male, though. let’s keep the identity politics out of the core.

  • personally says:

    @personally My favorite dead white male is William Faulkner.

    1. Ole Miss says:

      @Ole Miss William Faulkner is a racist from the South. We need more tolerance.

      1. homer says:

        @homer the man who penned the iliad himself had some pretty bad things to say about the trojans. and, oh, what he said about the lotus eaters and cyclopes in the odyssey. let’s ban that racist motherfucker and make lit hum like a warm, cozy safe space circle of love.

      2. Sarcasm? says:

        @Sarcasm? ‘Ole Miss’ you are being sarcastic, right? Right?

        Invisible Man is a damn good book, though, I definitely second that one.

      3. Ole Miss? says:

        @Ole Miss? That’s absurd. Faulkner is of great merit. Not all people from the South…or all people at Ol’ Miss for that matter…are necessarily rascist.

  • bop says:

    @bop Invisible Man

  • gossip says:

    @gossip I heard Crime and Punishment is being replaced as well, by… Faust, I believe is what I heard. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT?! why can’t we get rid of the trash that is Pride and Prejudice??

    1. bah says:

      @bah crime and punishment is indeed a longstanding favourite of many a lit hummer, but goethe’s name actually made the list in butler, whereas dostoevsky’s did not

      1. pissed says:

        @pissed how in hell did dostoevsky not make the butler list, especially when considering that Aquinas had his full name up?

        1. M.R. says:

          @M.R. Nicholas Murray Butler must not have been a fan.

        2. random says:

          @random Doestoevsky didn’t make the cut because it was completely random. They had intended to put up the names of authors, but the list was made aribtrarily at the last minute, and it has never had any more connection to the core than that both have “cannonical” authors.

    2. c&p says:

      @c&p I believe C&P emerged victorious from the fight, despite attempts to replace it…at least I hope so (it’s probably my favorite LitHum book). I second that P&P can go…

  • beloved is wonderful! says:

    @beloved is wonderful! and it has nothing to do with the gender/race of the author! they ought to add baldwin — go tell it on the mountain. or anything by zora neale hurston. or “nightwood”. or “100 years of solitude” or or or…

  • a good novel is says:

    @a good novel is Another Country, by James Baldwin. on a superficial level, it’s about sex and interracial relationships. but weaved into it is a story about trust and love. ok, maybe not to be incorporated into the Core… but you should read it anyway!

  • Nooooooo says:

    @Nooooooo Don Quixote must stay!

  • THE FOREST! says:

    @THE FOREST! Vaclav Havel is coming, the poet and playwright who took down Communism in Czechoslovakia and then became that nation’s first Democratically elected President.

    In all seriousness, great historical figures are often overlooked during their time on Earth. Havel is one of those great figures – it’s amazing that Columbia admin was able to get him here.

  • Concerned says:

    @Concerned Don Quijote MUST stay. Medea and Crime and Punishment defintely should stay. The Divine Comdedy works because of the set up of the work. But adding the Vaclav Havel in the middle of the first semester will seriously interrupt the flow of the course VERY early on. Maybe that play should be read first and then the Greek works should follow?

  • more info says:

    @more info They’re not replacing C&P with Faust. They’re putting in Notes from Underground (partly because it’s shorter) and adding Faust to the overall syllabus.

    Havel is definitely worthy of the LitHum syllabus, but its placement is sort of odd. Then again, if it’s The Beggar’s Opera it wouldn’t be toooo drastic…maybe.

  • a sophomore says:

    @a sophomore VERY bad changes…overall.

    They cannot possibly remove don Quijote with other stuff…I mean, what other works of similar consequence has Cervantes written?

    Also, I don’t think a writer of color should be added purely for the tone of his or her skin; that’s sheer tokensim. Incidentally, Augustine whom you apparently want to remove (even though his work is beautiful, imo) was from Tunisia, therefore, I highly doubt he was blond, as the cover depicts him.

    I like the idea of adding Faust, but removing Crime and Punishment is just about tantamount to killing the old lady.

    I also think they should add Borges, he’s awesome.

    1. the appropriate addition says:

      @the appropriate addition is joyce. remove woolf for his sake if they have to…

      1. DHI says:

        @DHI This guy’s plays don’t even have their own wikipedia pages. Come on!

        1. Anon says:

          @Anon Yeah – that’s cause he’s not just a playwright. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaclav_Havel

          1. DHI says:

            @DHI I know that, but what I’m talking about is the play , not the man, being added to the curriculum. Also that was a half-joke.

        2. then it's up to you says:

          @then it's up to you as an educated columbia student, to spread word of this play to our poor, ignorant online brethren yearning to cheat on their readings via wikipedia.

  • butt man says:

    @butt man we could take care of all this by adding a lesbian jew “of color” to the syllabus, and keeping the rest dead, white and male. black lesbian jews must exist. actually, come to think of it, there are probably a few at barnard…

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