The PhD and the Sparkly Vampire Books

Apparently, there's some discussion going on about whether or not professors of literature (of which I am one) should read the Twilight books.

And really, there's the potential for so much wtfery in even thinking about why that's an issue or how to address that, I'm not sure where to begin. But (as you can tell from the fact that I am here, writing this blog post), I'll try.

I am a literature professor. Should I read Twilight? Well, first, let's realize that this isn't actually about the Twilight books as such. It's about the idea of someone who is supposed to be an intellectual example standing up in front of a classroom and calling something - about which he admits he has no personal knowledge - crap. Or, excuse me, "low forms of literature." Let me here and now promulgate the radical idea that if you're going to call something crap, you ought to have some basis for doing so other than "lots of other people say it is." I mean, maybe it was just in my program, but I thought part of earning a PhD was learning how to form your own scholarly opinions.

It is my considered intellectual opinion that low forms of literature are crap. Do I need to read Twilight? Well, again. Here's the thing. If you haven't read it, how do you know it is a low form of literature? Because it is about vampires? But see: Dracula. Because it has werewolves? But see: Bisclaveret. Because it is popular? But see: the sales figures of any number of the classics of the literary canon. Because it was written by a woman? But see: A list of names I am not even going to begin because I would never be able to quit typing.

But I don't wanna. Fine. Then don't. Because for most classes that are currently taught in the lit departments at universities, there's no reason why Twilight ought to be added to your reading in the field. I work on modern speculative fiction, I teach course in the area, and so yes, I've read them. But if I were only teaching as a medievalist, or a Victorianist, or a specialist in early American poetry, there would be no reason. Unless, of course, every time I needed a shorthand for "fiction that is crap," I referenced Twilight.

Intellectual snobbery is perfidious and foul, and has no place in the classroom. Our job when we stand there is to open minds, not close our own.