Pop Quiz: Name Audre Lorde's greatest works



The University of Pennsylvania's English Department has removed a portrait of Shakespeare from its main hall and replaced it with one of Andre Lorde.

(The school is best known these days as being the international hub of the study of Quechua, offering both undergraduate and graduate courses in that indigenous language. Graduates with degrees in Quechua are perhaps the most sought-after holders of liberal arts degrees from the university, and have a remarkable record of obtaining employment after graduation at major international corporations like McDonalds, Starbucks and WalMart's.)

Department Chaircis Jed] Esty emailed English majors and minors on Dec. 8 with the statement he released to the DP. He expressed the department’s dedication to exploring a diverse range of works, both old and new.
“We invite everyone to join us in the task of critical thinking about the changing nature of authorship, the history of language, and the political life of symbols,” Esty wrote.

[English major] Kvellestad said the change reflects the values of the department and its students. [Katherine Kvellstad, by the way, is referred to as both "she" and "he", alternately, in the University's student newspaper report of this story, either indicating a lack of editing skills at the paper or a recognition of the fluid nature of human gender; these days, it's impossible to guess which.]

Some of you may have had an inadequate exposure to the great writers of English literature and somehow missed the genius of Miss Lorde; for you, I have looked her up.

Audre Lorde February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was an African American writer, feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. As a poet, she is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression, particularly in her poems expressing anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. Her poems and prose largely dealt with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity. In relation to non-intersectional feminism in the United States, Lorde famously said, "Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference -- those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older -- know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. 

Shakespeare isn't the only great person now rejected and thrown into the dustbin of history at this school: its own alumnus, Donald Trump, is not only persona non grata, his election paralyzed the entire campus, a paralysis that was only overcome after classes were cancelled, puppy dogs and coloring books were provided to traumatized students and professors turned their classrooms into safe spaces where their charges could huddle and weep. 

There's an interesting social experiment going on here: The Ivy League persists as an institution, it seems to me, because it serves as a place for bright children, and the children of the successful, to come together and make the contacts that will ensure them a continued place among the elite. As the schools that comprise the League turn away from actually educating these children and instead churn out pampered, privileged adult-children with an inculcated sense of entitlement, will their graduates still manage to retain their place in the elite? Does staying in the elite require more than an Ivy League diploma? My guess is that no, it doesn't, and Yale, UPenn and the rest will continue exactly as long as the society these graduates are released into does. At $65,000 a year, the parents of those infants should hope so.