Chicago, Ill— The victim-oppressor dialectic of Marxist doctrine has long since penetrated the university, leading to both classes on Karl Marx and the inclusion of Marxist literary theory in the curriculum. “Now it’s interesting to also speculate—because there’s no research—what are the psychological impacts of this kind of worldview? You can go around think of yourself as victim, or go around thinking of yourself as a victimizer,” said University of Nevada-Reno Adjunct Psychology Professor William O’Donohue at an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference this November.
Columbia College Chicago Professor Deborah Holdstein offered two additional reasons for professors to abandon victimist rhetoric. She told a Modern Language Association (MLA) composition studies audience this December that their “hubristic” claims to a higher morality or “composition-as-ascetic” within the English Department were unproductive. “We in composition frequently operate within a “victimist” stance, suggesting that as a result of our oppression by English departments, literature faculty, and the like, that we somehow reach a higher moral order, the compositionist-as-ascetic. In fact, we contribute to the contradictions that impede effective administrative and curricular policy,” she said, quoting from her article, “Writing Across the Curriculum.” As an antidote, she argues that composition professors should embrace interdisciplinarity. “Be open, be fair—it’s not just about composition,” she said.
In addition, Holdstein argued that composition departments should stop “dehumanizing…one field or another field” and work cooperatively with other departments. “Note again that the call to be expansive and hybrid in our professions involves working together not only in composition studies, but also [working] perhaps primarily from other areas and professions… and scholarly sources well beyond our customary boundaries,” she said.
However, Holdstein herself failed to abandon the victim-oppressor rhetoric she so deplored. Her second objection to the victimist approach of composition studies was that it failed to acknowledge that legitimate victims exist in other departments. “Could not our colleagues in world languages… or teaching language courses, for example, or mathematics, or chemistry, or marketing or any number of business courses… have similar claims?,” she said. Last year, she told an MLA audience that “Marx was right. He has the same birthday I do so I’m prejudiced.”
Bethany Stotts is a Staff Writer at Accuracy in Academia .