Canadian author and college literature teacher David Gilmour was under fire on Wednesday for his refusal to cover works by women in his courses, telling CBC News he was surprised at the backlash.
“I choose all material for my courses according to people whose lives I feel are vaguely close to mine, but whose work I really adore,” Gilmour told CBC. “There are a lot of other people who are equally good writers. I don’t teach them, not because they’re not equally good, but because I don’t emotionally connect with them as I do with other writers.”
The criticism against Gilmour started following the publication of an interview in Hazlitt magazine in which he said the only woman author whose work he loves is Virginia Woolf, but that her material was “too sophisticated” to teach in his courses at the University of Toronto.
Gilmour told Hazlitt that when students ask about the gender disparity in his curriculum, he tells 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.”
He also told CBC that the magazine interview was conducted while he was also speaking to a French media outlet, and that he in no way felt white male authors were superior to women or Chinese novelists.
“I love Alice Munro,” he explained. “I think she’s as good a writer as they come. But she writes about an arena of human experience — small-town, rural Ontario — that, frankly, doesn’t speak to me. I’m a Phillip Roth guy. I teach about people who live in the heart of the city, who have the same masculine concerns that I do. And if people don’t want to study that, they should go down the hall and study with someone who can teach it far, far better than I can.”
Gilmour, who won the country’s Governor General’s literary award in 2008, also told CBC that 90 percent of his students are women, who choose his course based on his curriculum.
Watch Gilmour’s interview with CBC News, aired on Wednesday, below.