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University of Toronto students protest David Gilmour

09/26/2013 03:12 EDT | Updated 11/26/2013 05:12 EST
Students at University of Toronto are staging a rally in response to negative comments by a literature professor about female writers.

It’s more fallout from the promotional interview author and lecturer David Gilmour did with Hazlitt Magazine, an online magazine which shares a publisher with Gilmour, Random House Canada.

The original comments ran in the site’s ‘Shelf Esteem’ column, in which Gilmour said, “I’m not interested in teaching books by women.” He went on to repeat the comment to CBC News, explaining he is just not equipped to teach female authors.

His comments, according to the Hazlitt staff, appeared on the site unedited.

Miriam Novick, a student at the college where Gilmour teaches, has organized a rally for this Friday, September 27.

“As people who learn and teach at U of T,” she said, “we want to make sure the rest of the university community and the public at large knows that Gilmour is not representative of our institution or of the academy, and to encourage Victoria College to seriously reconsider his continued employment.”

Novick and others started a Facebook page in protest. They titled their anti-Gilmour rally “Serious Heterosexual Guys for Serious Literary Scholarship”, inspired by Gilmour’s comments about only being interested in heterosexual male writers.

The student rally begins, ironically, around the statue of scholar Northrop Frye, who once taught Gilmour.

In addition to authors and critics taking issue with Gilmour’s stance, Paul Stevens, a U of T professor and acting chair of the English department at the school, issued a strongly-worded letter in response, posted below.

Dear Colleagues:

Like all those of you who have seen David Gilmour's comments in the Hazlitt magazine on teaching literature at U of T, I was appalled and deeply upset. They constitute a travesty of all we stand for. I will be pursuing the matter further today. There seem to me two points that immediately need to be emphasized. First, David Gilmour is not a member of the Department of English at the University of Toronto, and second, his ill-informed and offensive views could not be less representative of the passionately held values and actual practices of the Department. Please feel free to circulate this message as you think appropriate.

Many of you have already been trying to set the record straight -- many thanks to Nick Mount, Heather Murray, Alex Gillespie, Michael Cobb, Holger Syme, and Katie Larson.

Best, Paul

Paul Stevens

Professor and Acting Chair Department of English

University of Toronto

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