I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.So, no chick lit and no George Eliot, though as several commenters pointed out, he glides lightly over all the Proust on his shelves in his category of "serious heterosexual guys," boasting about how many times he's read Proust and the hours he's logged listening to audiobook versions.
I teach and have written on a lot of "real guy-guys," too, yet I am not in a Manliness Studies department because for me, relatability is not THE point but A point. It's one to be made when you're trying to convert students from "I liked it/It sucked" reading judgments to something more substantial: critical thinking.
I get what he's saying about loving some writers and not others. Like our students, we find some authors more "relatable"--but the difference is, we don't stop there. It's my job, as I see it, to find value in literature and to find some "way in" to teach it, to find something to get excited about so that I can honestly convey some of that to students.
As instructors, we always have something more to learn, and if we're closed off to that, either in what students can teach us or in what a piece of literature that we don't automatically like can do for us, we're not learning. We're stuck in our own brains. We start pontificating instead of listening and learning.
Gilmour may be an inspired teacher, but if your "truly great literature" circle maps 95% onto "middle-aged white men" in a Venn diagram (exception: Virginia Woolf), you may want to think about how that affects the way your students are shaping their literary judgments.