Leicester University denies it is dropping Chaucer for being ‘too white’ under proposals

Leicester University denies it is dropping Chaucer for being ‘too white’ after proposing modules on race and sexuality instead

  • University courses featuring The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf are under threat 
  • English department told of plans for a ‘decolonised’ curriculum via email
  • Leicester today moved to deny Chaucer course was axed for being ‘too white’  
  • But added that it wanted its teaching to cater to the students’ own interests

Leicester University has denied it is dropping literary giant Geoffrey Chaucer for being ‘too white’ after proposing replacement modules focused on race and gender. 

Plans have emerged to shelve The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf – two of the most important works in English literature – in favour of a ‘decolonised’ curriculum.

The English faculty has been told that the foundational texts could be replaced by more popular works – but Leicester said this wasn’t down to their ‘whiteness.’

Dr Christine Rauer, a lecturer at the University of St Andrews, told MailOnline: ‘It’s hard to see why race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity can’t be taught alongside Chaucer and Beowulf.

‘Bring in the new topics while also keeping the medieval! Curriculum planners should think big – their students will later compete with people who studied elsewhere and who have a much wider range. You will feel left out, if you only know half the story.’ 

Asked whether the texts might be too difficult, Dr Rauer said: ‘Medieval literature can seem hard at the beginning, but most good things in life are like that. Self-confidence comes from overcoming difficulty, and the unexpected.’

Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, is called the Father of English Literature

Epic poem Beowolf is also set to be phased according to the new University proposals

An email circulated to tutors and lecturers said they would be a history of writing, taking in course elements on ‘race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity’.

Today the university insisted to MailOnline the change came after feedback from students.   

A spokesperson said: ‘Students at the University of Leicester will continue to study some of the best-loved authors in the English language, from Shakespeare, Austen and Dickens to Keats, Shelley and Byron, to Woolf, Toni Morrison and Colston Whitehead.

‘There is absolutely no truth to the suggestion that certain modules are being eliminated for being “too white.”

‘We want to offer courses that match our students’ own interests and enthusiasms, as reflected in their own choices and the feedback we have been hearing.

‘Leicester continues to be a research-intensive, comprehensive university that offers a broad range of subjects. We will be engaging closely with staff and students to hear their ideas and suggestions in response to the proposals.’

The University of Leicester has denied the changes are because they are ‘too white’

The new teaching plans, which were leaked to the Telegraph, said: ‘The aim of our proposals is to offer a suite of undergraduate degrees that provide modules which students expect of an English degree.’

New modules described as ‘excitingly innovative’ were billed as covering ‘A chronological literary history, a selection of modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity, a decolonised curriculum, and new employability modules.’

It continued to say it could stop all English language courses and axe medieval literature.

Chaucer, the Father of English Literature

Geoffrey Chaucer, best known for The Canterbury Tales, is thought of as the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages.

He was born in London in the 1840s as the son of a winemaker, which was the family tradition.

Such is the respect for the writer is also known as the Father of English Literature.

He was the first person to be buried in Westminster Abbey in the area known as Poets’ Corner. 

In 1994 literary critic Harold Bloom placed Chaucer among the greatest Western writers of all time. 

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