Among the many third-rate books that English professors waste their students' time on (when they could be teaching truly great English Literature) is Margaret Atwood's 1986 The Handmaid's Tale... The Handmaid's Tale is the quintessential expression of our intellectuals' fears of what a truly Christian culture would look like." (from The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, by Elizabeth Kantor, Ph.D., p. 27)
Politically correct interpretation of The Handmaid's Tale:
The book shows what happens when religion becomes too involved in government, and the importance of the separation of church and state. Women will lose their rights to control their bodies. Homosexuals will be persecuted. The government will be prying into whatever sexually explicit images people are looking at and control reading materials. Society will become patriarchal, with men having all the power. Tolerance, choice and diversity disappear. It could happen. We must be eternally vigilant that it doesn't. The Catholic Church is the embodiment of these regressive totalitarian tendencies. Therefore, it is to be feared, and its power checked.
Politically incorrect interpretation of The Handmaid's Tale:
The book is an allegory about the co-optation of the St. Thomas English Department. Its professors have replaced great classical literature with inferior modern literature that reflects their personal views. Like Serena Joy, the profs, with tears streaming down their faces, (pp. 16, 45) reverentially talk about "diversity," "tolerance," "choice" and "uncomfortable material that challenges one's beliefs." But there is little "diversity" in the curriculum. They are ideologically pure.
Books that challenge their beliefs--- particularly those that positively affirm the Catholic Church's teachings on sexual morality and abortion--- are censored, verboten: forbidden fruit. Most books they choose were written in their lifetimes. They have discriminated against the great Western writers of the last 2750 years. Why read Homer, Plato, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, or Chesterton, when you have Margaret Atwood?
Like the commanders in the regime, the profs believe they know what is best for their subjects. If the handmaids (students), in good conscience, ask to read something else, they tolerate no substitutes. Students have no choice other than finding another school (the colonies), or dropping the required class. The students are trapped in Gilead (freshman English). If the students don't like their indoctrination, they can "fake it." (p. 255) After all, the prof may have a "pony whip" (grade book) hidden behind the door." (p. 231)
Part of the thrill of a college education is meeting through books the great minds of those who've gone before us, and receiving their wisdom, experiencing their search for truth, as expressed in marvelous plays, poems and novels. Great literature points to what is true, to good moral decisions, to our eternal destiny. Great English Departments teach great literature. Why not at St. Thomas?