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The current Geneseo English major requires at least one course in "Cultural Intersections" — a category that has variously been called "world," "non-traditional," and "multicultural" literature. What factors or issues need to be considered when this type of requirement is created?

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  1. Unknown User (mkm7)

    One main factor that needs to be considered when demanding this kind of requirement is the issue of religion and/or strong social beliefs.  Some students possess extreme religious beliefs, which may prevent them from wanting to or even being able to accept and study the literature of another culture.  Also, some students may not wish to study a particular topic due to their own misgivings.  For example, perhaps the class has decided to read a book or watch a film regarding such a sensitive topic as dealing with racism.  This student may not feel comfortable learning about this concept due to his or her own negative experiences with the topic at hand.  Of coarse, by the college level, most students come to class with an open mind and want to learn about other cultures.  This is the benefit of having such a requirement.  Students branch out from their own set ways and learn more about the world.  Through reading literature from a culture one is not a part of, he or she can grow as a reader and become much more knowledgeable, accepting, and understanding of others and their cultures.

    1. Unknown User (smm37)

      I fully agree that the main issue when having all English majors take a cultural intersections class is ignorance of other cultures. Despite the fact that a class on other cultures would broaden the horizons of students and force them to learn about people and believes other than their own, which is a wonderful thing, some people do not want to learn about other cultures. Some students believe so strongly in their own religious ideas or heritage that they merely see other ideas as false, ignorant, and wrong. This may make them closed-minded and, therefore, have them come into the class angry that they are forced to take something so offensive to them. Other people may not feel so strongly, but merely apathetic about other cultures, therefore frustrated and annoyed that they have to take a course dealing with subject matter that they just don't care about. They may feel that it is foolish to have to take a course dealing with nothing that affects their own personal lives. So, although it is a wonderful idea having English majors take a course on cultural intersections, one has to realize that some may be offended by or annoyed with having to take such a course dealing with such personal topics.  

  2. Unknown User (mes33)

    When creating a requirement such as this, it is important to realize and consider the fact that when we explore literature from cultures other than our own, we need to delve into not only the literature but the context of the literature. If we study the literature only from the perspective of being American students, we cannot truly understand all of the complexities that exist within the writing. We must also examine the history, the current events, and the social customs surrounding the literature. In this way, when such a requirement is created, we must become not only scholars of literature, but scholars of history and sociology as well. This requirement forces us to not only examine literature, but to examine cultures and customs that we may have otherwise ignored. 

    1. Unknown User (jao7)

      Historical and cultural context is a necessity in a course like this. Megan makes an excellent point regarding perspective. Our cultural readings would be so much richer if we understood small details such as language/jargon, family structure and social or political changes that occur before the literature is produced. Without this information, the readings have no value to our growth as students. Perspective has a huge impact not only on the way writers can share their culture with others but on how the readers can perceive the culture. Relating to a piece is more meaningful to me than just merely understanding what the person is saying. Ive had a few experiences in class, where latin pieces were butchered because there was virtually no context provided to allow students to discern taboo from tradition.

    2. Unknown User (mes33)

      It is also interesting to note language differences from other cultures. Syntax, diction, and other literary elements may be changed or altered when a text is translated from one language to another. 

      Students also tend to have a view of America as being dominant over other cultures. By forcing us to read and appreciate literature from other cultures, we gain a greater appreciation and understanding of cultures other than our own. 

    3. I'd have to say that was brilliantly put.  Some people have argued that we need to make a point of being understanding or conscious of other people's beliefs and that they may not be partial to having to take a class about other cultures but as an English major we need to be open to culture, and we need to understand it in order to understand the literature to a greater extent.  

  3. Unknown User (kmq2)

    Creating this requirement allows students to experience literature from various points of view, explore social contexts in literatures, and read literature from many diverse writers around the world.  It helps the students broaden their horizons, and by examining pieces from various places around the world the student not only becomes more knowledgable about history and social controversies of other groups of people, but also becomes a better writer through experiencing numerous styles of writing. I think one thing that should be kept in mind when creating this requirement, is there should be a wide array of different classes that fit this requirement from several areas of the world.  I think all the continents such South America, Africa, Asia and Austraila should all be represented in the selection of classes to allow the students to choose classes based on their interests.  This also allows students of various backgrounds to have the opportunity to take a class where their culture and social contexts are discussed so that they are included.  As scholars of literature, it is absolutely essential that we open our minds to all the cultures and people in the world so that our comprehension and acceptance of multicultural literature can grow.  Learning more about history, sociology, and culture makes up more connected to the world, inspires our writing, and allows us to get a sense for ways of life other than our own.

    1. Unknown User (jns9)

      You could not have said this better, Katelynn. I understand where some people are coming from that this could cause problems with certain peoples religios beliefs. However, this kind of requirement could broaden our knowledge on these different points of views. Not to mention, learning about other beliefs, traditions, and ways.

  4. Geneseo’s creation of a Cultural Intersections requirement is an attempt to move away from canonical literature (or what everyone seems to perceive as ‘great’) and towards lesser-known, but still valuable works. I think requiring this course is a great move on Geneseo’s part, especially because they are putting so much emphasis on diversity this year. A professor has a lot to take into account when creating a course like this.

    First of all, these courses should be at least as anthropological as they are literary. Much multicultural literature is not famous/great because of its excellent use of literary techniques; it’s great because it represents a culture. Historical background on that culture, even on that author, is vital to appreciating the work. For instance, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is a book that made an enormous impact on American history – but if I knew nothing about slavery, or the ensuing Civil War, what would this story mean to me? I understand that English teachers are not historians, nor am I asking them to be, but I think context is an absolute must. I also believe reading supplementary texts that were popular contemporary with the main piece we’re studying would be very useful (i.e., if we’re reading the Sturluson’s Prose Edda, we should also look at the Codex Regius or the Voluspa).

    Second of all – variety! A lot of us are exposed to African or Latino literature in schools as an effort to fulfill their own world-culture initiatives. Here’s something I’ve never, never seen in schools: Scandinavian literature. It’s fabulous stuff, such an adventure to read, and yet I think I heard a total of six sentences about “the Vikings” in my high school career. Oh yeah, and Beowulf doesn’t count. I’m talking about the real stuff. Anyway, my point is that we shouldn’t just have run of the mill options. Let’s read what the Aztecs have left us, let’s explore Persian literature, let’s check out books from Oceania. The more courses are offered, the more diverse those courses are, the happier the students will be.

    Finally… and this may sound a little harsh, but I’m just being honest… let’s get works that are actually literary. It’s fine for Maya Angelou to talk about what it was like growing up in the segregated South, but that’s not really literary. It’s not fiction, and in my humble opinion (feel free to throw stuff at me), it’s somniferous. I would rather not hear about marginalized people’s personal struggles – I’d like to read a novel. Look at what Dante did, for instance! He was thrown into exile and he wrote about hell. That’s freaking awesome. Works of fiction with interesting angles would really get me into multicultural literature. I think I’ve been turned off to it because I’ve read one too many boring stories about how ‘I used to help mama make the bread and then sell it to the villagers’.

    Personally, I would prefer to stick to the canon because that’s the type of literature I enjoy. However, it is absolutely important and branch out, and how do I know that I don’t like stuff outside the canon? While I can say that I’ve read African literature and disliked it, and Latino literature and disliked it, I don’t think I’ve every picked up anything Asian. I would love to take a look at something like the Rigveda or a classical Chinese novel. Plus, these are all just generalizations: I don’t like what I’ve read of Latino lit, but there may be something out there that I’m just waiting to fall in love with. I’m sure the profs will do a good job when assembling these very demanding courses.

  5. While I know that we have to be able to have a course title, and that we need to be able to limit the huge scope of literature to a particular focus, I tend to have a problem with pidgeon-holeing literature into different cultural contexts.  As we discussed in Doggett's class, it tends to foster ghettoization of the group, further separating "us" from "them."  

    This concern is something I covered in my senior project in high school.  I wrote about the poets of the Harlem Renaissance and the pressures they felt to both assimilate to "white" culture and to retain their black heritage.  Countee Cullen, for instance, embraced white forms in an effort to prove his equality.  These efforts, however, alienated him from both of his audiences: the whites of the time did not want to read the poetry of a black man, and the blacks didn't think he covered racism in his poetry as much as he should.  A poet could not be black without being a black poet.

    These types of labels foster stereotypes, hinder creativity, and go against the American ideal that feigns free speech and expression.  It's ironic that so many attempts to diversify and be inclusive actually typecast and separate.  This could be a topic of discussion in courses with subtitles -- not just "Cultural Intersections" courses, but courses like Women's Literature, Gay & Lesbian Literature, African American Literature, etc.

    We also need to be humble about the conclusions we draw from any literature of another culture.  One piece of literature is definitely not representative of an entire culture.  Not to mention, a work's significance then might not be its significances now.  We can never truly know what it felt like to be black in the 1920s, which is something I had to come to terms with in my own study.  We can, however, know what the work means to us now.  Both are valid to consider.

    And I agree with Christina: let's get some literary works!  I tend to wonder if some multicultural authors are canonized because of their causes or because of timing. (We talked about this too in our section when we looked at the politics of Hawthorne's literary reputation.)  I love that you mentioned Maya Angelou, because I'm definitely not her biggest fan.  If I was studying African American Literature, for instance, I would be much more inclined to study Claude McKay's "America" or Jean Toomer's "The Beehive" than any of the political literature of DuBois or Douglass.  The best literature of the Harlem Renaissance, in my opinion, balances both beauty and protest.  Plus, these classes are still English classes, and the language and literary devices should be the most important considerations; such courses would ideally study how the language makes the work effective.

    1. I agree with you, Gregory. The “multi-cultural” requirement has many purposes (exposure to differing views, an elaboration of culture, growth as a well-rounded individual, et cetera), however, the requirement does make certain implications about the distance between different cultures, ethnicities and classes. It operates on the dangerous assumption of a student’s cultural ignorance, where a few works are used to highlight – and effectively stereotype – the achievements of a given culture. Multi-Cultural courses strive to endow a student with a perspective of strife/adversity that a given culture experienced, but making such generalizations – removed from the cultural context where struggles had occurred – is tantamount to racism, the alignment of entire cultures behind very narrow (albeit exemplary) works and their component themes. If I had the power to craft requirements, I’d favor studying cultural literature within a historical, sociological perspective (favoring an era as a whole), creating a better understanding of experience and the discharge of assumptions on culture. 

  6. Unknown User (mtb12)

    When faced with a multicultural class one must focus first and foremost on to whom the class is geared and who is most likely to take such a class. Students make the class, after all. Multicultural class are more likely to have a diverse population than other classes. I took a multicultural lit. class last spring and found the most challenging part of the class to be my classmates, most of whom were from China or Korea. It made it harder to focus on symbolism or any kind of reading into the writing when we had to define simple words or teach religious philosophy in class. It made it more interesting in a lot of ways, though because we got all kinds of different perspectives, especially when we read Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, the memoirs of a Chinese-American. We had both girls and boys from China on hand to explain cultural stories or why certain words were used instead of others. I think there are pluses and minuses to having a multicultural lit. class, but overall I think if the professor is good at teaching it then it can be a great class. 

  7. I think a Cultural Intersections course sounds like an interesting idea, but the Guillory reading, “The Canon as Cultural Capital,” got me thinking about the flaws of separating literature by culture. It seems that this sort of separation either has the problem of being too broad, or too specific. As the Guillory reading implies American school systems seem to lump all literature from here to Europe, with dates ranging back hundreds of years to the present, all into one category, “western.” Forced labels tend to be inaccurate, so having a course based around a specific culture is likely to cause similar misconception, which could lead to anything from harmless misunderstanding to unintentional stereotyping. Problems with a course like this could also go the other way, causing students to miss bigger pictures, because they focus solely on their conceptions of the given culture. Learning about other culture is always interesting, but when requiring a course such as this I think it’s important that whoever designs the course tries to avoid these possible problematic misunderstandings.

  8. Unknown User (rs18)

    The Cultural Intersections courses are very interesting and it's fun to learn about other cultures, but as academics we need to keep in mind that many of these works have been translated into English.  They weren't written in English originally, and when works of literature are translated into English they become in a way less original.  Readers are reading the closest translation that a translator could come up with, the work takes on the personality of it's translator.  In "What We Read" Guillory says that translation is only a more explicit version of [...] deracination by which all cultural works are constructed" (222).  The text is changed by it's translation.  This knowledge should make us careful not to jump to conclusions about a culture based on its literature.

    1. I completely agree with this statement. I also feel as though we should not just observe the culture, but the history as well that helped to shape the culture. One can't fully understand a work of literature from another culture without at least a general understanding of that culture's history. 

    2. Unknown User (cjs3)

      I agree with this as well but there's something else to consider.  For the majority of students, English was their first (and possibly only) language they learned.  They have shaped their subjective realities based on the objective logic and structure of the English language.  Much of our comprehension is grounded in how we name, specify, and define things.  Just because I understand Spanish doesn't mean that I can fully grasp certain nuances and connotations that arise within a Spanish text.  I would most likely be deaf to more than just  the formal elements of, say One Hundred Years of Solitude.  My brain operates in the context of the English language, it's a completely different lens that would drain a lot of the meaning from the original book.   So, a translation is about as close to the original as spaghetti and meatballs is to chicken lo mein.  But honestly, would anything change if I read the original?

  9. When reading and studying "world," "non-traditional," or "multicultural" works, one must be careful not to generalize a certain culture purely from what was read. While it is true that aspects of a culture can be interpreted from pieces of cultural literature, it can be tempting to take such aspects and apply them to the culture as a whole. In "The Canon as Cultural Capital," Guillory warns against treating a simple translation of a cultural work, which has been taken out of the original intended context, as a true transmission of culture. That being said, we should take Guillory's point into consideration but, at the same time, not be discouraged from entering into the literary world of other cultures. We should remain conscious of the fact that culture is an extremely complex entity which cannot be completely understood through literature and also continue to treat literature as an aid in gaining knowledge about different cultures.

  10. Unknown User (rjh12)

    I think that the requirement to take a course based on another culture if very interesting.  It can give the student a general understanding of that culture from its literature.  But what Guillory is warning against is that a cultural text that is translated into English can change the meaning of the original text.  Also, when a course is taught that is to specific or to broad, it can create misunderstandings about that culture or leave out important cultural information that can help to better interpret and understand the texts better.  He is not totally against learning about cultural texts, he just want to make sure that the student is aware that views and be limited when a topic is to narrow and to keep in mind that there may be more to the picture that what is presented to them. 

    1. Unknown User (me4)

      I agree with you Rebecca. The idea of making this course a requirement would be very interesting and I am sure that English majors would not mind taking a class like this. It is not meant to change any student's view on a culture or literature because of various ways that literature is exposed. It is important to keep an open mind and understand that no culture is better than another one. There is no right or wrong way to view and interpret literature. This class would be interesting simply because it would be different than the typical English class.

  11. In taking a course that includes reading multicultural literature, there are many factors that need to be considered. One extremely important one is that in the literature that has been read isn't a complete representation of the culture specified and the author's own individuality, writing styles, and ideas come into play when reading and interpreting works. Surely their ideas and possibly their writing style are somewhat contrived and affected by their culture, but it isn't a mirror image of the culture it represents. Guillory embodies this in his quote "The theory of multiculturalism perpetuates the confusion of culture as the study of perserved artifacts with the sense of culture as common beliefs, behaviors, attitudes" (220) In this quote, he warns that in analyzing multicultural works, a person can confuse the ideas presented in that work with the beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes shared by people in that culture.

  12. First, I would like to say I think having a requirement for an English course in "Cultural Intersections" is a good idea.  I think that every major should have a course starting off with "word," "non-traditional," and "multicultural."  It's always a good idea to get other insights and perspectives on other areas of writing.  But we have to make sure we aren't stereotyping people in different cultures with the writing styles and topics the course brings up.  We should be able to look around a room and know that not everyone thinks the same way let alone writes the same.  This statement is probably true all around the world, which is why we should remember that idea.  Guillory starts to take culture to a whole new level.  He is talking about students within schools learning about "national culture" based in a way of "school culture."  "What is transmitted by the school is, to be sure, a kind of culture; but it is the culture of the school." (219)  Which is just stating that a school, or in our case a course, is just giving you knowledge of what they think you should know on basic ideas.  When clearly there is so much more to culture then what we can learn in school.

  13. Unknown User (mrc15)

    I like the idea in Guillory's essay about the difference between national culture and school culture.  The culture we see in schools is totally different from what culture is going on in the world.  Schools take on their very own culture and the norm or the culture outside of its walls is not the same.  School culture does not bring the nation together whereas the culture of the nation does.  National culture means that a group of people share common beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes.  I think it is a great idea for multiculturalism to be a part of schools' curriculum.  Students need to learn about other cultures and broaden their horizons.  They need to see that their way of life is not the only way of life.  Everyone is different and they should learn about these different cultures.  This will help students become more tolerant of one another and this will help stop prejudices from forming in the future.

  14. In The Rise of English, there is a huge incorporation of class divisions and the associations and interactions that follow that status. This demostrates how, even though we are all reading the same work, we need to know how others view the work. Many cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic differences separate one individual from another, giving each there own unique connection to another, so by learning other's cultures and backgrounds, we can unite as a whole and learn to accept there is more than one way to view something.

  15. Requiring a Cultural Intersections course for English majors is a good thing because it broadens people's horizons and allows them to experience new ideas. Something we have to consider, though, is the fact that we can't take what we read out of context. As John Guillory points out in his essay, it's important not to forget the conditions under which the work was created. Since some "Classic" literature has been translated into English, we often think of them as belonging to our culture, and because of this we lose some understanding of the work. In order to gain a full understanding of a text, we have to remember the ideals of the culture in which it was created. This is like Guillory's idea that the translation of works is "a powerful institutional buttress of imaginary cultural continuities" (The Cannon as Cultural Capital 222). In translating a work, to our language, we then tend to think of it in terms of our culture. This "imaginary cultural continuity" makes us lose meaning in the text. So when we read and learn about a work from another culture we have to be careful to think about it in the context it was written in. This way we can preserve the truest meaning of the work.

  16. Unknown User (kmq2)

    I think one of the things that needs to be considered when discussing this type of requirement is the fact that we must not get caught up in labeling every piece of literature as being associated with a specific cultural context or referring even to authors as writers of a specific cultural.  Through my "Literature of the African Diaspora" class, we have discussed the problem of "universality" and attempting to create a universal idea of literature. Diversity is essential, as well as the foundation for studying literature, but restricting authors or works to specific cultural groups limits this and undermines the accomplishments of certain individuals.  Writers want to be acknowledged and respected for their work based on its merit, rather than its quality based on the labels associated to it.  While it is critical that we experience various culturals through literature and broaden our knowledge by studying the complexities of various social and cultural issues, we must also try not to label and divide literature into groups based on the cultural background of the work.

    1. Unknown User (jao7)

      Katelyn raises an excellent point in respect to labeling pieces of literature. The books and poems that I have been reading in my classes all seem (in some shape or form) to depict "double-consciousness." The reader is not only conflicted with European-American standard and perception but the reality of the way racially diverse groups view themselves. 

  17. In "The Cannon as Cultural Capital", Guillory makes the point that when the school picks and chooses certain facts and aspects of different cultures, it is not doing the nation the favor of "unifying" it nationally but establishes a "school culture", teaching students a certain cultural "expectation" as it were.  Schools need to be as unbiased as possible in their choice of cultural influences and attempt to ensure a wide range in use of "artifacts" representing several cultures, both widely known and unknown, but I think mostly unknown.  I think if you concentrate on the well-known stories and facts and whatnot as schools tend to, that is all students will associate with the cultures.  Each culture has a boundless amount of depth that cannot simply have a foot dipped into it, but the person must completely be submerged by sampling several aspects. 

    Another thing is, when creating this requirement, the professor teaching the class will have to try and ensure the best possible depth of understanding for the students because someone who identifies themselves with the the said culture will expect the class to be correct and thorough and deliver the essence of what their culture IS.  And the topic may also want to tread softly at some areas at treat them with the due respect the culture expects of the topic, so as not to offend for lack of tact. 

  18. Unknown User (amh19)

    Our world is much bigger than just America. It's something that I forget myself, very often. That is why I feel that all college students should be given the chance to learn about other cultures. By requiring students to take a class in Multicultural literature the college is basically forcing its students (in a good way!) to look at something much deeper than just the sureface of their culture. In my opinion, the literature a culture creates is a sign of how rich a culture is. Fine literature offers an intimate look at the thoughts, beliefs, dreams, and fears of someone, no matter what culture they are from. Now, there has already been a lot of discussion about how students must be careful not to stereotype groups based on what they read, therefore, though I do agree, I feel no need to address that particular issue. Rather I will assert that reading the creations of another culture can help someone from a very different culture connect with the authoring culture. In the modern world today, being able to form that connection is growing more and more important. As our world is growing smaller and smaller, more chances for sharing of literature and experiences are being reveled, and schools like this one need to help their students to open their minds so they can be ready for it.

  19. Okay, I have a question: For those of you that support teaching multicultural literature in lieu of the canon (not necessarily all the canon, but replacing some of it), how do you defend the idea that a student may be less informed about his or her own culture, that an English major may graduate having never read some "staples" of literature? Or idea that they will have less to discuss with other people who consider themselves "well-read"? And if we do need to cut some of the canon to make room for multicultural lit, what gets cut and why?

    Just playing devil's advocate. :)

    1. Not to be antagonistic in the slightest but the question arises, what counts as "well-read

      "" and what counts as culturally significant? To define either of those reacquires the

      aspect of a canon with certain texts in preference purely by the limitations of how many 

      books a course or department as a whole can squeeze into its curriculum. This with

      the intent of course of maintaining an optimum amount by which a student can consider

      themselves educated in the manner the course suggested when they signed up for it, and naturally

      the major as a whole as well.

           To my mind, a canonical structure may also come to be required for this department's

      achievement of true culturally awareness as it is rather necessary, looking at the

      staggering number of texts to be chosen from. If we do not define a limit or use some

      sort of sorting mechanism, we are left with so many books and cultures to pick from that

      no syllabus, culturally aware or pure canonical in nature could fully encompass the

      sheer breadth of such an under-taking with any real success.

      How then can the material be pared down in such a fashion that cultures are well

      represented but not defined by the few examples we are left with while balancing the need

      to not ignore those texts previously considered canonical that themselves also have merit

      in an English major's studies?

  20. Unknown User (smb27)

    It is my feeling that diversity is not being celebrated by the requirement of one multicultural course in a degree program. If we were to truly celebrate diversity and the diversity that makes up the whole of English literature, multiculturalism would be embedded into every course. I think we certainly are taking measures to eventually lead up to this, but we're not there yet. The only issue I have is that there is only one required "cultural intersections" course.

    1. Unknown User (kcr3)

      This is definitely a valid concern. For me, though, it raises another concern. If we start a push to embed multiculturalism into every course, we risk diluting what the course was about in the first place. We have a number of effective courses on very particular topics, and shoehorning multicultural themes into the curriculum may not always work. The celebration of diversity is a worthwhile goal, certainly, but we need to be sure we are not pushing diversity for diversity's sake. Rather, we should be integrating diversity and multiculturalism in a way that enhances the course and leads to a deeper understanding of the literature.

  21. Unknown User (cls24)

    I feel that Cultural Intersections contributed in English, is extremely important because all races, cultures, genders, religions, etc. are bound to read and write. Assuring the inclusion of the diversities will play an important role in keeping awareness between each diverse group, as well as help others relate to people of the same group or groups with diverse beliefs, traditions, etc. It is important to incorporate these different works of literature in education as well because these days we often have mixed cultures and awareness is still lacking in our society. I believe cultural Intersections would be a very appropriate way to create change in this area.

  22. Unknown User (mkm7)

    America and American culture only constitutes a small percentage of the world.  Hundreds upon hundreds of traditions and cultures exist throughout the world, in third-world countries as well as modernized countries.  To only focus on the narrow field of American culture and American literature is a disadvantage to any English major.  The multicultural requirement should be instituted in every college and for all majors.  This field is not only interesting, but it helps the students to be more knowledgeable and open minded about the world.  To learn about a culture foreign to one's own at first seems dismal and extremely disconnected, but by studying and learning, students should be able to connect other cultures to his or her own.  This is particularly helpful for the growing mixing pot that creates America.  By being tolerant, and interested in learning of others, not only is more knowledge of the world acquired, but better and more accepting students will be created.
          To some students, many issues are faced with such a requirement.  As I stated in my previous post, some students may not be as open-minded as he or she needs to be to learn and understand other cultures.  Religious intolerance, the disability to accept other cultures, or one's own beliefs may prevent a student from understanding another culture or even being able to want to understand.  Students come from all different backgrounds and places and with their own beliefs in check. It is crucial that a student be open minded and willing to learn about topics that he or she may at first find alien.  Students need to throw what they consider normal out the window and be completely open to new ideas.

  23. I definitely think the open-mindedness of students is an uncontrollable issue when facing these classes. However, I think that the lack of acceptance that stems from society is the real problem with this requirement. When calling a class about African-American or Native American literature "non-traditional" or "multi-cultural" you are looking from one point of view- the White point of view. What about people who are of Native American descent? For these people, taking a Native American literature class may not be "multi-cultural", and taking an Irish Literature class would be. Yet Irish literature is not considered fulfilling the "multi-cultural" requirement. The exclusion of specific cultures into "multi-cultural" classes is an issue that will last as long as these classes do. Although I do think it is important that people are exposed to different world views, there will always be an issue with these classes as long as society labels them "multi-cultural".

  24. Unknown User (ees15)

    A lot of factors need to be considered because this is a really, really broad topic. Works as old as the Bible or Sappho and as new as Szymborska's poems can be considered "world" literature (I actually grabbed these examples from a World Poetry class I took once where all three were studied) because they were written in and for different cultures than the one we're familiar with. But I guess one has to consider what works are considered traditional literature. The Bible may be, considering how influential it is on the Western world. So does the term "Cultural Intersections" relate more to topics and writers that we haven't heard of? (However, one may be able to argue that all cultures relate to ours in some fashion.)
    I also agree with Deven about the fact that many courses like this take up the white point of view as though it were automatic. It may be extremely difficult to prevent this, though. There are so many cultures in our country that it may be difficult to appease all of the different standards of 'multicultural'. I don't think we can find any one brand of cultural text that is foreign to everyone-- perhaps the best bet is to create a course in which several different cultural texts are studied.
    (Another thing to consider is that students are probably going to have to study translated versions of the works in these classes. That can't really be prevented, though, unless you're studying a subculture of our own and considering it non-traditional.)

  25. Unknown User (jl38)

    I feel like this requirement is pretty pointless. Literature is a very vast and broad thing, the requirement of this will only allow one to scratch the surface of the culture of the literature. There is no point in learning such basic things about something if you are not going to learn it in depth. Majors should have the choice to concentrate on a specific topic. Everyone is able to have a general knowledge of a topic, but it is those with the expertise that count.

  26. Unknown User (eem13)

    By labeling works as "cultural", "worldly", and basically "other", Professors ask students to approach them that way. It falls into the question of the canon: "What makes a literary work 'great' enough to be considered timeless and influential to other works?" And what about the equally great and innovative works that fall outside this category?

    Yes, I understand we should be exposed to works outside our usual curriculum, and it is important for students to be exposed to these "other worldly cultures". But if we label a book feminist, we will read it as feminist and not see its other potentials. If we highlight that the author is African American, we will read it and look for the way it represents African Americans and their issues. But why can't these be woven into all class's basic curriculum and not labeled as something we need to treat differently because its not what we're used to? We read works by white men and they can represent and make comments about anything, free to speak on any issue. Why can't we do the same for the "cultural" books we should also be exposed to as English majors in a Liberal Arts University?

  27. I feel that one should read and want to read literature on different cultures and ways of life. Today there are so many different kinds of people in our world, and it is educational and self-fulfilling to learn about others. I do not think that the courses should be labeled as "cultural" or "other" because then people automatically judge and go into the class with a one way mindset. All classes should try and include some sort of culture outside of the "white rich man" so the individual becomes well rounded.

  28. Unknown User (ab18)

    I agree with Amber, it is educative and self-fulfilling to learn about others. By having this category it isolates literature, somehow giving the impression that non-traditional literature addresses different issues. This is not the case because most of these texts are just written by non-white individuals, but the general themes are the same. Literature, after all is about the human experience. However, without this category college students may never come across literature outside of the stereotypical white male authors we are used to. It forces the department to provide a wide range of literature to the students.

  29. I definitely agree that we need more exposure to non-traditional canon - i.e. works written by white, WASP males - but I think labelling them as 'non-traditional' puts them into too much of an 'other' category to accomplish the real aim, to increase exposure. Personally, I think the curriculum needs to be more all-encompassing. There are many works that could fit within current classes if the curriculum were just tweaked a little. That way, students would be exposed to a wider variety of works without alienating any literature as a whole other category.

  30. Unknown User (hkw3)

    Due to the fact that I have already taken a western, non-traditional sociology class last semester, I know (for the most part) what to expect in regards to this type of literature. Upon first coming into the class, I had expected the class to consist of novels and textbooks that related to Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. However, what I learned in that class consisted of even more detailed topics in regards to government, religion, and people's ways of life. With an open mind, I concluded, like many others on this forum, that learning various cultures through literature is a very important aspect as an English major. It is imperative to become familiar with different perspectives in today's world, whether be through literature or any other form.

  31. Unknown User (clc11)

    I think this requirement is one of the most beneficial the college has.  Coming from a predominantly white, middle-class community, I don't have much experience with minority groups.  I'll openly admit that I hold certain prejudices based on the little experience I do have.  I think a course like this provides sheltered people like myself an opportunity to better understand the cultural differences between traditional American society and the many other groups that occupy this nation and the world. I welcome the opportunity to understand how and why these cultures developed the way they did.

    The only factor I'd really consider in implementing such a course is its relevance to modern American students.  I don't think literature from Argentina, for example, would be of much use to us.  I'd prefer to see texts that deal with non-traditional cultures within the United States or cultures of other nations that will be important in our country's future.  I think everybody could benefit from learning a little bit about China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.  How many people would blindly label all Muslims as extremists if they'd read the Koran for themselves?

  32. Unknown User (kmq2)

    In considering this requirement, I also think its necessary to look at what types of classes are being offered that fufill the requirement. While it seems there is a fairly strong general consensus that the requirement is beneficial to the college and the degree, we must make sure all types of cultures are being represented and in the appropriate contexts.  For example, I know there are several classes offered on African-American Literature or Literature from the Africa Diaspora and Carribbean area but it is essential that every group is equally represented to allow students to take classes based on their interests as well as to expand our knowledge base even further.  Offering several different course from Asian literature, Native American Literature etc. with different topics and syllabi in order to expand the entire requirement as much as possible.

  33. Unknown User (mes33)

    To be completely honest, my viewpoint on this subject has not changed significantly over the course of my studies in English 170, or since the last time I posted. In English 170, we haven't seen different viewpoints from significantly different cultures so much as significantly different time periods. While these different time periods do force us to at least attempt to leave our preconceived notions about a particular subject at the door when we do a close reading, I think the general consensus has been that it is impossible to read without bias, no matter how hard you try. In all likelihood, it is the same with reading a multitude of literary works from other countries and cultures. Despite this, I feel it is still extremely important that this requirement is encouraged and continued. It forces us to attempt to change our perspective, and in doing so broadens our horizons. While it is difficult to overcome some of our thought processes and biases as students of a Western culture, it is extremely beneficial to do everything we can to increase our knowledge of other cultures and ways of life. 

  34. Unknown User (jao7)

      After yesterday’s class discussion, I realized another important factor within literary text including cultural intersections. This concept is reading as a writer. It is easy to forget that the literature can be analyzed and criticized not only by people who are writers, but mostly by people who are not. I think that if students acquired this skill, they can interpret readings with a less biased perspective and gain appreciation regardless of the cultural ideas it might entail. It is so important to appreciate structure, language, and bigger conceptual literary techniques that a writer uses to fairly judge quality literary works.Although syntax and diction plays a huge role in the way we interpret material, it is no different than an English writer that uses sophisticated language. We have so many resources at our disposal to uncover those meanings. If we can become culturally well rounded, without taking a complete history class, why not enjoy cultural intersections if we could acquire the skill of reading as a writer to do so?

  35. As far as cultural intersections are concerned, I feel as though, like many have stated about the Shakespeare requirement, it should be an elective. If this were so, I believe that many people would end up taking such a course, because college is the opportune time to open up your mind to many and varying cultures and I feel many students realize this. When it's required students go into the class with a mindset of apprehension simply because they have to take it. 

  36. I'm currently taking a 'multicultural' class this semester - "Literature of the African Diaspora" with Professor Lima, and I've really enjoyed it so far.  The class has done an excellent job of educating us about works penned by authors who aren't white men, but rather people of African descent, and often women in this case.  Never though has there been a compartmentalization of the works - they aren't highlighted for what makes them separate but for their messages.  I think one thing that has been focused on that was especially important was that 'multicultural'' works - those by African Americans or Native Americans in particular - aren't solely those groups history, but the history of America as well.  African American and Native American history IS American history, and while arguments can be made that parts of it can be distinguished as pre-American history, a majority of the history is intertwined, and yet they are often not thought of in this way.  I feel that this means 'multicultural' is the best terminology to be applied here, and that 'non-traditional' in particular can be misleading and inaccurate as a label.  Also, it is very important to study these works and not alienate them as regardless of their author's origin or the themes of the book there are works by authors of all races and ethnicities that are significant. 

    Toni Morrison is an American author, having won the Pulitzer prize for her novel Beloved and the Nobel Prize in Literature.  And she's black.  Yet despite this her works could be conceived as falling into a 'non-traditional' category, and that isn't necessarily fair to her or her works.  Setting up the guidelines for 'multicultural' courses is a complicated situation, but is undeniably important.  It should be done carefully, and with consideration to the groups of people whose culture and work are often analyzed and studied.  It is also essential to maintain that in these courses we are examining other humans not greatly different from ourselves, and keep that in the mind of the students throughout the course.

  37. I agree in a cultural intersections requirement because its primary aim is to give students the opportunity to experience the literary work of those authors from groups typically underrepresented in the literary cannon, including ethnic minorities, women and homosexuals. These groups are underrepresentation is due to social factors which cause the cannon to be fundamentally racist, patriarchal and homophobic. When considering cultural intersections courses one must remember that it is important not to separate the established canon and “Minority texts” into separate literary curriculum so as to not “Concede the validity of the Master’s Rule” as Richter says in, What We Read. We must not allow the texts of women homosexuals and minorities become the text of the “Other”, or literature that is subpar to the largely white male heterosexual canon, but rather literature that is its equal to the cannon. Also when developing cultural intersections requirements and classes it is important not to allow the work of one minority author become essentializing discourse made to represent an entire people. I believe that cultural intersections courses have the ability to slightly make up for the social inequalities evident within the canon, but the more important issue is to open the canon so that minority authors are seen as equal to their white male heterosexual counterparts. Until the social issues of discrimination, on the basis of sexual orientation, gender and race, have been completely erased (which don’t expect to happen any time soon) a cultural intersections requirement is our best chance at allowing students to experience the work of underrepresented authors.

  38. As seen in this wiki thread there are many different opinions on a cultural intersection class. There are those who immensely enjoy them and others who think that the requirement is pointless. By making the cultural intersections not a requirement but an elective would give people the opportunity to take other classes that interest them. At the same time, people who were interested in reading literature from other culture's would be able to do so in a class filled with people with the same interests. While students now have their choice between different cultures there is not much variance in the classes; most just scratch the surface, as Jason stated earlier, and do not really allow for a better understanding of other cultures.

    1. Unknown User (jl39)

      I agree that many people do not enjoy cultural classes, but our world is becomming a more diverse place. In the work force, we will all be exposed to different cultures, and even if these courses just scratch the suface, they will still give us an understanding about cultural values other than our own.

  39. Unknown User (rjm17)

    My main problem with "multi-cultural" classes is that there seems to be a tendency to present other cultures as solid, united entities. Which is obviously bunk, and a sort of ironic racism. Inside any given culture there is likely to be a diverse proliferation of view points, so much so that to claim any set of works represents a culture as a whole is like claiming that 5 paintings represent the history of art. It's simply ludicrous.

    That said, I do feel it's important to get a chance to escape your own culture. Too much repetition of the same ideas can blind a student to alternative viewpoints and "multi-cultural" interruptions can help break up that particular breed of mental quagmire. So yes, I do support them, but I think they should be packaged more carefully.

  40. Unknown User (ajc31)

    Many commenters have risen the point to consider student's personal cultural values. All those arguments do is limit the requirement to anything short of offending people. I suppose that means something in terms of religion or some such? If that's the case, it's obvious that we should consider evaluating cultural intersections without forcing people to become Buddhist or Muslim or Christian or atheist. But if people are concerned with being offended while taking this class, I'd contend that offense is inherent in literature of all cultures. Just as banning Catcher in the Rye is absurd for any serious student of literature, so is limiting ones scope to only the literature of their particular culture. The only thing that need be required in considering the syllabus of a cultural intersections class is the same that should be considered in any their literature class (granted, itself and entire thread). But if we as students of literature are going to start being sensitive about offending those who will always go out of their way to be offended, we might as well confine ourselves to reading Harry Potter or The Koran.

    Oh... wait...

    Maybe something by Glenn Beck?

  41. Unknown User (rr11)

    When looking at this topic religion and social belief are key factors.  When talking about other countries their traditions and what they believe is acceptable in society is completely different from what we in America find acceptable, so some people might be truly offended by what other countries do and say.  Religion is the most important factor because it is the most controversial topic in the world.  People feel very passionate for their God's and belief and for them to be forced to read and write about a religion that they don't agree with is unfair. On the other hand I believe that other countries should be learned about and our culture is changing all the time due to there so it is important to learn about their customs and other traditions going on overseas.  In conclusion I feel only certain classes should be core classes when it comes to culture, other classes that deal with culture should be electives.