The University of Leicester’s proposal to replace the medieval literature component of its BA English courses by ‘excitingly innovative’ modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality, and diversity, and thereby further the aim of ‘decolonising the curriculum’, has attracted anger among academics in the English department. But if the public letter of resignation penned by its prospective external examiner for the MA English Studies programme, Professor Catherine Clarke, is anything to go by, then it is difficult to feel very much sympathy for the plight of these academics.
In her letter, Clarke protests that medievalists at Leicester are already ‘tackling complex subjects such as sexuality, migration and identity’. They are already engaged in meeting the challenge of ‘diversifying the curriculum’, evidenced by that ‘brilliant’ initiative of the English Department, the ‘Colonial Countryside’ project – according to which advisory boards of trained ethnic minority primary school children ‘reverse-mentor’ white National Trust staff to ensure they can explain the colonial and slave trade legacies of their properties. The problem then, according to Clarke, is not that the University is decolonising the curriculum, but that its ‘fraudulent use of the language of decolonisation’ stands in the way of a ‘serious’ commitment to decolonising the curriculum and ‘interrogating its structures and systems’.
But the lady doth protest too much, methinks. If academics at Leicester conceive education as teaching currently fashionable ideology, educating for diversity and inclusion etc., they can hardly object when their ideology, or their take on this ideology, is displaced by another, and, consequently, that they too are replaced.
Catherine and her colleagues may think that they have been ticking all the right boxes, but they are still white and privileged, and according to critical race theory, which is now very fashionable, that makes them part of the problem. To even think that the study of European (‘white’) literature, delivered by bearers of white privilege and exponents of unconscious bias, is a suitable vehicle for addressing historic injustices and giving voice to the victims of white hegemonic oppression, and the marginalised, surely constitutes a microaggression of the most grievous kind.
No amount of posturing and virtue signalling will save the likes of Catherine. Their fatuous posturing merely fans the flames of their own self-created funeral pyre.
Let them burn.