I finished reading Multicultural Hybridity last night. The final chapter of the book explains how Laurie Grobman foresees a new kind of “US Literature” – changing the whole disciplinary name from “American Literature,” which implies that the “United States” is somehow synonymous with the term “America” – appearing in critical studies and classrooms.
The central tenet that Grobman describes is a reformed literature classroom in the United States that decentralizes the white, male, heterosexual authors and their works as the norm of aesthetic standards in order to favor an amalgamation, a “hybridity,” whereby an acknowledgment of a mutual exchange of literary influence can dominate overarching discussions of all kinds of American writers, rather than having any single dominant group at all. One of her ideas that I had not considered before is how much emphasis is placed on how writers or color, female writers, and GLBT writers have been influenced by the works of white male writers but how little emphasis is put on how white male canonical writers have also been influenced by writers of color, female writers and GLBT writers. I had not considered how much literary influence is a two-way street, According to Laurie Grobman – and I agree with her – a discussion about the importance of cross-culturation needs to replace the current model that discusses mainly (or only) the influence of canonical writers on other groups.
While I found a lot of valuable ideas in Multicultural Hybridity, the implementation of these ideas would be a whole other matter. For me, the usefulness comes in considering adaptations to my own classroom practices using these ideas, and Laurie Grobman does a very good job of acknowledging the classroom setting as the primary place to implement these suggestions. However, convincing state boards of education and standardized test makers to reform along these lines would be a titanic task. Especially in the South where I live, convincing education leaders that the curricula for English classes should be re-written not be centered on a canon that overrepresents white male writers, but should reflect a cultural and ethnic breadth instead . . . would be very difficult. In the South especially, where terms like liberal, politically correct and multicultural are all dirty words, Grobman’s ideas would take a long time to latch on down here, even though reforming the teaching of literature with her ideas would do Southern children, including the ones I teach, and Southern culture a whole world of good.