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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | DECEMBER 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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English Department embraces diversity

I am writing in response to Ashley Lee’s opinion column of Dec. 13 (“Teach lit in black and white”). Even as Lee takes to task the English Department’s introductory course, what a wonderful statement of the power of studying literature she provides. Although that introduction aims to sample the full diversity of literature in English and the varied approaches to engaging it, no single course can satisfactorily represent the range, the richness, and the complexity appropriate to the study of English.

Each semester’s version of Introduction to the Major has different emphases, and I regret that this semester’s version has given Lee the idea that the English Department endorses the hegemonic power of a Eurocentric white tradition, since this is precisely one of the concepts that our curriculum aims to question. English faculty will continue to argue over and revise the scope of this introductory course (a committee happened to be discussing it the very day this editorial was published), but no single course can do justice to the broad and sophisticated engagement with questions of race, class, gender, power, and the human experience that I hope the complete major in English does offer.

I would encourage all interested students to enroll in the many English Department courses that explicitly engage these questions, including such courses as Literatures of the American Peoples: Diverse American Voices and American Drama since 1900: The American Dream in Post-Brown African American Drama (both with space still available for next semester).

I wholeheartedly endorse Lee’s point that studying literature allows us “to consider human experiences and their complexities” and to see that “no text is completely universal.” The range of coursework in the Department of English is a great place to engage in that imaginative complexity and to challenge the assumptions that Ashley rightly sees as a cause for concern. 

Jonathan Wilcox
professor and head of the Department of English

Medical cannabis coming

Prohibition of cannabis has created a huge black market that subjects everyone to danger. Iowa’s draconian approach has caused painful suffering and death while we spend millions of dollars fighting to restrict access to a safe, proven, and effective treatment for many illnesses.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical cannabis, with more submitting legislation in the coming year. A majority of Iowans (polling showed 64 percent) feels medical cannabis laws would stop the wasteful spending of tax dollars, ruining people’s lives. In an agricultural state such as Iowa, medical cannabis offers new tax revenue, new jobs, and a safer treatment option for our doctors to prescribe. One’s health is a medical issue, not a law-enforcement issue.

I urge Iowans to contact their respective state legislators, Gov. Terry Branstad, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds to support the upcoming medical-cannabis bills being introduced in January 2014. Medical-cannabis laws are coming to Iowa, but how much time and money will we waste and how many lives will be ruined or lost in the meantime?

Brian Littlejohn


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