Last week in one of my classes somebody blurted out one of those “well, that’s the dumbest thing I’m going to hear all week” opinions.
In a LITERATURE CLASS, mind you, this kid (who shall remain nameless) stated the following:
“Walt Whitman was the height of American Literature.”
I need a moment to gather my thoughts here . . . .
1. Walt Whitman may be nice and Transcendental and all, but his work is just pages upon pages of pretentious navel-gazing and personally, it puts me to sleep.
2. You cannot possibly think that one author is the “height” of American literature. You just cannot be that stupid.
3. You cannot possibly think that THAT author is the “height” of American literature. Hello?!?!?!? What about Poe, what about Hawthorne, what about contemporary authors like King and Picoult and effing Stephen Colbert for crying out loud? Of all the THOUSANDS of American authors, how do you manage to pick out Walt $%*ing Whitman as the “height” of an entire country’s literature?!?!?!?!
4. If you can even make it through one of Whitman’s pieces without finding yourself skimming along and daydreaming about something else, then you’re either: A. a liar, or B. the most boring person in the history of the universe.
This comment angered me for a few reasons. First of all, I hate when people make absolute statements like that when really all it is is an OPINION. It’s fine to have opinions. I’ve got more than my share of them. But state them as such. Just because YOU think it doesn’t mean it’s true. YOU are not such a powerful, intellectual, all-knowing being that your opinion equals fact. Sorry.
Second of all, it’s just so IGNORANT. Have you never read Annabell Lee by Poe? Have you never read “The Scarlet Letter,” or “To Kill a Mockingbird”? Do you not understand the historical significance of those pieces of literature??? I mean, let’s not even get into contemporary stuff, of which much could also be considered by many to be the “height of American literature.” But there’s just so much ELSE that’s significant both in literary and historical context.
You’re really trying to tell me that you’d rather read three agonizingly long pages about a tree?