One of the most effective silencers of people and their opinions is to label them in the negative. Thus the political correctness regime, that labelled certain opinions as "politically incorrect," has silenced what seems the majority of Canadians on many current issues. The Anti-Oppressive movement within Education tells us that labels are bad. We shouldn't label people. Yet, during our class discussion the other day, my opinion was labelled "pretentious" and I was silenced…almost.
Of great value to contemporary Education is the exploration/subversion of our white, privileged, patriarchal assumptions, including the assumptions that formed our great canon of literature. One of my beliefs about "great" literature is that it is great because it has universal appeal, aspects that delight, amaze, or can be identified with by all people, regardless of race, gender, or time. Why else is Homer's Odyssey still widely read and appreciated, 2500 years, and a multitude of cultures after it was first written down? We are all human, (all who read anyway, lest I fail to represent animals, creation, and spiritual identities) and we have commonality in our humanity. However, the "sacred" question of post-colonial academics is: "Who has been written out of this text?" In other words, who is not represented in this story, poem, etcetera? While this is a good question to explore when addressing history (whose story), or even when addressing the canon, I don't find this a beneficial question to ask of a piece of literature. First, it is impossible to represent or include all people groups when I sit down to write a poem, a personal expression of my experience of life. Second, the fact that I can enjoy a poem written by a person from another time, gender, or culture, even though my time, gender, or culture has not been represented suggests that there is some element of literature that can be identified with by people of all times and cultures. If this is true, can anyone, then, really be written out of a text? I think the answer is "no," because great literature is great because it appeals to, informs, and expresses common human experience.
The real question that should be addressed is whether what we believe to be universal is in fact universal, or is it just cultural? Had my professor been less interested in silencing an alternate point of view, and more interested in searching out truth, this would have been a good discussion.