U of T students protest against David Gilmour's comments
University of Toronto students take part in a demonstration against literary instructor and author David Gilmour over his controversial comments about female authors, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.
Published Friday, September 27, 2013 12:05PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 27, 2013 2:00PM EDT
University of Toronto students gathered Friday for a protest against a literary instructor and author over controversial comments he made to a journalist.
Some students are calling for David Gilmour’s dismissal after he told the interviewer he is not interested in teaching books written by women and he prefers to teach novels by “serious heterosexual guys.”
Gilmour also told the journalist he doesn’t “truly love” books by Chinese writers or women.
In response to the remarks, students are staging a demonstration at U of T’s downtown campus.
A Facebook event listing invited people to gather in front of the Northrop Frye statue, and nearly 400 people have indicated that they plan to attend.
“David Gilmour has generously reminded us of the importance of studying Serious Literature by Serious Heterosexual Guys,” the event listing states. “Let's show our support for the omission of unserious people like women, queer folks, and writers of colour (especially Chinese writers) from university syllabi by rallying around the statue to Serious Heterosexual Literary Scholar Northrop Frye.”
Several authors have weighed in on the controversy.
After speaking at a Social Media Week event Friday, Canadian author Margaret Atwood said she is unable to give her opinion on Gilmour’s remarks because he is longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and she is a member of the three-person jury.
“Universities are places where many things are taught and where free expression of opinion is encouraged,” Atwood told CP24 reporter George Lagogianes.
In addition to being an award-winning author, Gilmour, 63, teaches a modern short fiction course at the U of T's Victoria College.
He made the remarks to Emily M. Keeler and they were published by Hazlitt, an online magazine on Random House of Canada’s website.
“I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories,” Gilmour told Keeler during the interview in his U of T office. “But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf.”
Gilmour went on to explain what he tells students who question why there are no lessons on female writers.
“Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course,” Gilmour told Keeler. “I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.”
In an interview with CP24 on Thursday, Gilmour apologized for the controversy and said he didn’t intend to offend anyone.
Gilmour, a former television show host and journalist, said his comments were taken out of context and they don’t reflect his views.
He said he meant to explain that he teaches books by middle-aged men better than he teaches books by female authors.
As he questioned the way the interview was conducted, he said his comment about only teaching “serious heterosexual guys” was a joke, but it didn’t come across as one in print.
After the remarks created a firestorm on social media, Victoria College issued a written statement saying neither it nor the U of T endorses the views attributed to Gilmour in the article.
“Mr. Gilmour, a noted Canadian author and journalist, teaches elective seminars on his area of expertise, leaving other areas of literature to be taught by colleagues who can do so most effectively based on their areas of specialization,” the college said.