At Rhode Island College, we have been engaged in a debate over the inclusion of literature by white women and people of color in a required two-semester Western Literature course based on the two-volume Norton Anthology of World Literature. Feminists have been supported by the dean and the president, who threatened to veto the course altogether if it did not include some literature by women in its core of required readings. Under protest, the English department voted to add Emily Dickinson to its list. The Norton Anthology includes only one Black writer, Richard Wright, and before the end of the academic year 1981-82, he too will probably be added to the core list. That part of the debate is as yet not completed.
In the two-year history of this conflict, I first protested to my chairperson that the Norton Anthology itself is biased because of its limited offerings by white women and minority writers. Since the professors already teaching the elective pilot course, however, were totally satisfied with Norton's snippits of "great literature," I lost that round. As women and men in various departments cried out that the new course was a return to the dark ages of tradition in which white women and minority groups were invisible, the English department made one capitulation: faculty in the program could require their students to read two extra books, if the elective works in the anthology seemed insufficient.