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Homer Gets Canceled

Detail, Arnold Böcklin, Odysseus boasting to Polyphemus, 1896.

1,772 words

Anyone with a decent education knows that the Iliad and Odyssey concern the fall of Troy and the struggle of Odysseus against a series of eldritch terrors on his voyage homeward. The timeless appeal is clear; the style is quite gripping, which especially comes out if one has a good translation or happens to know Greek. They’ve been studied since antiquity. However, this may change. Leftist academia is starting to put the 2800-year-old author in their crosshairs.

Cancel culture versus literature 

On December 27, the Wall Street Journal published the article “Even Homer Gets Mobbed.” (It’s always a pleasant surprise whenever the MSM writes anything decent.) It begins:

A sustained effort is under way to deny children access to literature. Under the slogan #DisruptTexts, critical-theory ideologues, schoolteachers and Twitter agitators are purging and propagandizing against classic texts — everything from Homer to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dr. Seuss.

Even Theodor Seuss Geisel’s imaginative rhymes are getting canceled? Ouch! That’s one more example that being liberal just isn’t enough these days. It seems the Cultural Revolution is starting to eat itself.

Other than that, Padma Venkatraman stated that books with outdated language are unsuitable for children, and in particular those including societal bad attitudes — the usual litany of “isms” and the catch-all term “hate.” Moreover, “Absolving Shakespeare of responsibility by mentioning that he lived at a time when hate-ridden sentiments prevailed risks sending a subliminal message that academic excellence outweighs hateful rhetoric.”

Didn’t Shylock from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice also make the point that Jews are people too? I’ll go out on a limb to say that maybe his unpopularity had more to do with being a loan shark than with his religion. Well, just stop doing that, Mr. Shylock!

It always must come as a shock to the Pod People when they realize that some author in the past wasn’t a 21st-century woke Leftist. Did it never occur to them that their own ideology would become unfashionable one day? I used to think that getting “triggered” wasn’t merely a tantrum, but a terrifying meltdown for them. Maybe there’s a little more to it than that; perhaps ideologically-driven indignation is the only passion that illuminates their dreary souls. Either way, shielding students from anything that might not be considered politically correct is a disservice to them. If they don’t learn how to handle differing opinions and disagreement, then they’ll grow up to be liberal wimps too.

The article points out a tweet by Evin Shinn, who teaches in Seattle:

I don’t mind saying it: I’d rather die than teach Scarlet Letter. Unless you are teaching about how to fight against misogyny and slut-[shaming].

As someone who actually read it and understood it, never did I think that Nathaniel Hawthorne was writing with approval about the way the townies treated Hester Prynne. A writer replied with similar sentiments to one of the commenters, though more pointedly. This launched an outrage mob, which lobbied successfully with her publisher to get her contract revoked. Apologizing profusely during the online struggle session didn’t help, true to what Vox Day’s experience in these matters indicates.

Now Homer gets canceled

Scylla and Charybdis couldn’t stop Odysseus, but finally he met his doom.

The article continues, describing how a couple of Boston-area teachers are glad that The Odyssey has been purged from the curricula. So Odysseus survived all the slaughter at Troy, various attempts by the gods to blow him off course, lotus-eating dope fiends, a one-eyed people eater, a sorceress who invited his sailors to pig out, a trip to Hades and back, a siren song, twin maelstroms, the sacred cow hamburger incident, captivity by a nymphomaniac nymph, and the final battle with a houseful of douchebag suitors. Sadly, at long last, the great mariner of the Argo sank into the Orwellian memory hole.

Legal Insurrection provides the discussion on June 4, 2020, cross-posted to #DisruptTexts:

Shea Martin: I want to remind y’all that this disruption work is a marathon, not a sprint. Be like Odysseus and embrace the long haul to liberation (and then take the Odyssey out of your curriculum because it’s trash).

Heather Levine: Hahaha — very proud to say we got the Odyssey removed from the curriculum this year!

The WSJ author further relates: “When I contacted Ms. Levine to confirm this, she replied that she found the inquiry ‘invasive.'” Further posts covered by Legal Insurrection indicate some backpedaling by Levine.

You can buy It’s Okay to Be White: The Best of Greg Johnson here.

We don’t know much about Homer; the ancient sources describe him as a blind poet, and little else. There’s been much scholarly speculation about him, including the idea that perhaps he too was a figure of legend. (Again, since the Iron Age, scholars have been studying the Homeric cycle and its background.) However, we do know more about these two teachers who apparently considerably lack enthusiasm for it. Greek City Times also covered the story and helpfully provided some photos. We can see, for one thing, that Shea Martin seems to be a fan of 1980s revival Afro hairstyles. She also has better specs than the common Leftist fashion these days.

Other than that, an interview presents some further insights, and in the beginning describes Shea Martin as “a lit teacher, consultant, and researcher whose work is rooted in antiracist pedagogy, intersectional feminism, and creating liberatory learning structures for BIPOC students.” Surely I would’ve had a blast if I were one of her students! The interview is “about the big impact that small moves can make when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ students, what it means to be an ally, and more.” For example, coming out at work wasn’t really too difficult:

Yeah, and I think in some ways I think I was blessed, in that I’ve never been able to I think in the classroom pass, in quote on quote, for straight. I think when I came out to my students my first year, I was very nervous about it, and then my students were like, “Of course we know you’re gay.” My girlfriend at the time, my wife now, they’re like, “Is that Caucasian lady your girlfriend?” So, they had picked up really quickly, and it was the cutest thing in the world, but I’ve never had that whole should I come out, should I not come out, and students questioning whether or not I was queer. 

My educational experience never was quite as interesting as that. The schools sort of had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” standard for the teachers. I’m still not sure what BIPOC means, or if that even was a thing when I was young. Then again, back in the day, you either were gay, straight, or bi; all those dozens of new genders and sexual identities hadn’t been invented by academia and activists yet. We were learning about things like literature and biology instead of radical gender theory. How times have changed!

Less public information is known about the more photogenic of the two, Heather Levine. (I’m guessing that she does not have two mommies.) What could she have against sea yarns of old? That outstanding nose could be the model for a trireme’s prow, cutting through the waves of the easterly Mediterranean. A brief bio from last year states that she’s been an educator for a decade, currently teaching ninth-grade English to mostly Hispanic students. Personally, I find it difficult to get upset with anyone named Heather, but as for being “very proud” that Odyssey was canceled at school, I wish she’d stop doing that

Motivations

Neither of the two explained what their problem was with the Greek poet of 28 centuries ago. However, they didn’t have to, any more than one must explain why water is wet. This isn’t merely about philistine inclinations. If it’s not glaringly obvious, Patriot Post spells it out in great detail, including the following: 

For the progressive demagogues who dominate America’s educational system, the elimination of historical references and lasting cultural elements is a feature, not a bug. Nothing threatens an agenda aimed at producing the rigid conformity of thought required by every totalitarian movement more than making students aware of ideas that challenge that conformity.

Thus, this intentional shallowing out and subsequent “reshaping” of students’ thought processes, in all its Year Zero, Orwellian permutations, must be introduced into curriculums as early and often as possible. And so an effort that began with posting “trigger warnings” on “problematic” teaching materials is proceeding seamlessly to outright censorship.

Putting it more bluntly, the cultural Marxist effort at sending classic literature down the memory hole is one front in their anti-white agenda. For nearly two thousand years, there’s been general agreement among scholars about what the great works of literature were — collectively called the Western canon — until fairly recent times. I recall that by 1990, the fad which eventually would culminate in #DisruptTexts reached my toxically Leftist campus. The student newspaper, a playground for the future cogs in the MSM, supported purging the “Dead White European Males” (helpfully abbreviated DWEMs) from the canon. Throughout this campaign, there was much crowing of approval by some characters who really need to stop doing that.

Note well, this wasn’t about adding Confucius and Lao-Tse to the canon in recognition of their contributions to world literature, which would’ve been unobjectionable. No, the old Great Ones of literature had to go, and ours most especially. Although this obviously was an anti-white agenda, we’re not even getting great ancient Chinese luminaries in place of ours. (At least we still have the immortal works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.) Now that this bowdlerization frenzy has caught on in academia, the newer crop of teachers graduating from colleges like mine was instructed by their cultural Marxist professors that getting rid of the classics is some kind of moral imperative. 

Now we see the results. 

What will students have left to read if this goes on, with one great author after another getting canceled at the whims of perennially offended culture distorters? What will fill the vacuum? 

With that in mind, I challenge any of the mental microbes at #DisruptTexts to write an epic better than Homer did.

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19 Comments

  1. Bert Wells
    Posted February 18, 2021 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Sounds somewhat like Himmlers plans for Polish education “Reading will not be necessary”.It basically comes from the same place of desiring to create a population of ignorant serfs unlikely to cause any trouble.One would imagine if it succeeds the high culture will only continue to exist on the book shelves of the Mustapha Monds and O’Briens who will enjoy it while prohibitingit to everyone else.

    • Moe Oeolycus
      Posted February 19, 2021 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      I had the exact same thought. Education in America largely exists as subsidized babysitting and preparation for a life of drug addled drudgery.

  2. Till
    Posted February 18, 2021 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    I had a professor in college that pointed out absurdly that just because africans had no literature or history written down doesn’t mean their culture wasn’t equal to the West, they just passed it down verbally. Two things always struck me from that, first, the ancient greeks passed down the Illiad and Odyssey verbally too, before their society became sufficiently advanced to write down. Africans never achieved that advancement. Second, saying a culture is verbal based instead of written down makes it very easy to lie about its complexity, and create a parity between cultures which does not truly exist.

    • Paul
      Posted February 18, 2021 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Till,

      I’m currently reading Linguistics For Dummies of all things. In that stalwart text writing is referred to as a technology.

    • Posted February 19, 2021 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      The willful ignorance of professors like that is remarkable. They’ll make any excuse. Do they even believe what they’re saying?

  3. Captain John Charity Spring MA
    Posted February 18, 2021 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    These people have to be Piers Gavestoned by King Patrick McGoohan. #defenestratethecurriculum

    • spin gerahat
      Posted February 18, 2021 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      Their triggering causes my trigger finger to itch.
      Deranged lunatic filth should never be allowed near students.

  4. Cicada31
    Posted February 18, 2021 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    That was humorous. But the Argo was for Jason and the argonauts, not Odysseus, just FYI. I don’t think their boat had a name. They rebuilt it a few times.

    I think these leftists are in a tizzy of purity spiraling. As one bastion of European culture is smashed, they look for ever more subtle targets to destroy. I think the goal is to remove any writers of talent from the curriculum so that minorities can compete in literature. It’s similar to the project of replacing art with works such as piss Christ and urinals on walls and canvases that look like bird poop. They don’t want a high standard to be compared to. On a deeper level they don’t want young white people to have defining myths and stories from which to draw spiritual power and recognize their own heritage.

    I like to look at lists of youth books, so the other day I was perusing the summer reading at one of the local high schools I attended. This is a mostly white, rural but fairly affluent county. All woke books, about Hispanic immigrants, blacks in the inner city, and the standard Holocaust books. Except the latter, I had never heard of mist of the titles. When I came up the books were excellent and shaped my psyche to a great degree. I discovered once and future king, Edith Hamilton, the Greek epics and other great stuff from them. There was some proto wokeness, but it had a variety of perspectives to it, with books like farewell to manzar and less accusatory classics. I worry about young whites, weened on all that, who won’t have the spiritual bedrock to face a world that is hostile to them.

    • Memebro
      Posted February 18, 2021 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Indeed, this is all about breaking us down and beleaguering our Western spirit.

      It is evil. These academics are evil.

    • Posted February 19, 2021 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      Well heck, I thought the ship got the same name. I stand corrected. With all the ships listed in The Iliad, it’s odd that it’s not recorded in The Odyssey.

  5. Posted February 18, 2021 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    No problem. I’ve hard copies of every classic from Homer through Gibbons and help parents homeschool (I’ve a MA in Secondary Education, et al and retired from teaching 25 years ago). With the “dumbing down” and Marxist subversion of American education in the 1990’s, I decided to become a human time capsule of classical education and encourage parents to homeschool. Today’s public schools emphasize Bloom’s Affective Domain (feelings) over his Cognitive Domain (facts and figures) upon which our schools used to concentrate on. Bottom line, homeschool your kids (you probably can’t do any worse than the public school teachers) and send them to a trade school to learn a profession instead of a cultural Marxist indoctrination center (university).

  6. Vehmgericht
    Posted February 18, 2021 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Perhaps it would distress these two ladies that the arch-elitist and font of all things Western, the divine Plato, is in full agreement with them over the harms of Homer in education.

    Would they be interested in taking up the rest of his regime? But I fear they would be too coarse and dull to prosper in the Kallipolis.

  7. Nero
    Posted February 18, 2021 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    What leftist academics are saying is that the classics are now associated with white supremacy.

  8. Flel
    Posted February 18, 2021 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    My son is in 10th grade and is actually getting a book reading assignment. Animal Farm! He enjoyed it. Is starting to get back to reading again. His comment this morning: I remember why I like reading. You can go at your own pace. I’m thrilled he’s reigniting an interest in classics. I want to encourage him to read more. 1984, Brave New World, The Jungle, The Heart of Darkness. Try to show the perils of totalitarian society.

    • Captain John Charity Spring MA
      Posted February 19, 2021 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Have him read the Screwtape Letters and Screwtape addresses the graduates.

  9. χναε
    Posted February 19, 2021 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Is it not homophobic to deny access to the classics?!

    These monsters are on their way to banning A Separate Peace

  10. Antidote
    Posted February 21, 2021 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    That pic of Shea is classic; it’s going into my rogue’s gallery, gap toof, peeling paint, hippo face and all. Really brings to mind the old, old New England joke: ‘What’s the difference between a Vermont lesbian and a whale?’ Ten pound and a flannel shirt.
    What does Heather have against Homer? He’s a goy. I’m sure she has a BIG bug up her arse because of the 6mlyn. These are very likely at the top of her required reading list: Weasel’s ‘Night’; Lengyel’s ‘I survived Hitler’s Ovens’; ‘Diary of Ann Frank’; To Kill a Mocking Bird’

    • Posted February 23, 2021 at 4:06 am | Permalink

      It’s not quite a gap tooth; she has something stuck in there. I can’t quite figure it out from the larger picture on the Greek City Times site.

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