To Forgive and Gloze Over

In “What We Read”, Richter introduces us to the term “glozed over” through Barbara Herrnstein Smith:

… features that would, in a noncanonical work, be found alienating – for example, technically crude, philosophically naive, or narrowly topical – will be glozed over or backgrounded.

 

As Richter continues to elaborate, this means that when a work is found to be of literary significance despite a strand of racism, sexism, or other prejudice woven throughout, those who are in place to judge the work can also find the room to forgive the author’s transgressions due to the ultimately redeeming qualities of the whole. (125) Doing so protects the work from entering a “trajectory of extinction.” (Quote attributed to Smith via Richter, 125)

Tom Buchanan is a Very Important (White) Person.

What drives the academic, critic, or any individual reading canonical works, to forgive or gloze over such uncomfortable passages? In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan stands out as a bigot in more ways than one. When we are first introduced to Daisy’s husband, he goes on a tirade inspired by a book he had recently read (located on p. 12 of the class edition):

The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be- will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved…

 

You don’t say!

The book Tom’s so passionate about is real: The Rising Tide of Color Against White-World Supremacy was published by Lothrop Stoddard in 1920. Most of us are familiar with the fear-based “science” of the time that sought to prove the superiority of whites. If we understand, then, the context the book is placed in, are racist remarks such as Tom’s easier to explain away? Is it just as easy for any of the minorities targeted in the book, as it is for whites, to appreciate the more obvious themes and concede the overall “literary value” of the book?

When do we stop making excuses for works that would be, if published in our time, considered grossly inappropriate and culturally insensitive?

Richter Reading

I connected immediately with Richter as a child that grew up with her nose in a book but also thought it was for fun rather than for life. Although I was a late reader due to California’s reading system, but soon caught up and surpassed my peers. Since second grade I have always had a book with me, whether assigned or for pleasure, I am always reading. I started as a Psychology and Anthropology major and only recently became an English major. I returned to what I was best t in High School and what I knew best. I live among similes and allusions; they are my life-blood. I read to escape into my world that is made up of the many worlds I have read about. I read to return home. I read for pleasure and I write to give pleasure. I write and read to better understand myself and others.

Scots and their English studies

I just wanted to point out that its really pretty messed up that english speakers think that their own works aren’t worthy of study. Did other countries do the same thing with their native literature? I also think it’s cool that the study of English lit was a way for scots to improve themselves, and that they then brought it to colonized nations to teach them British values and customs. I’m left wondering what works they chose to represent themselves. Any ideas?