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Oct 29 , 2017

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Return of the Wunker...

by Andrew Douglas
Return of the Wunker...

While we’re on the topic of curiously motivated righteous indignation, I see where another alleged academic who has previously found herself in the crosshairs of my organ is behind an online petition calling for Frank’s head on a pike. Dal English professor Erin Wunker is the beautiful mind behind thepetitionsite.com’s Open Letter Condemning Racist Publication & in Support of El Jones (catchy title! — ed.), which at presstime had garnered a titch over 13,000 supporters.

Which sounds mildly impressive, until you realize that the vast majority of said supporters don’t live within a day’s drive of Nova Scotia, and have never heard of Frank Magazine, much less read it. But more on that in a moment. Professor Wunker, if you recall, was named Frank’s inaugural Wunker of the Week in 2015 after she took issue with a National Post column penned by Rex Murphy in which he criticized the decline of academic standards in university humanities departments.

And with a blog on her website, the author of Notes from a Feminist Killjoy managed to prove his point quite nicely, that too many arts degrees are based not on the study of “what is worth knowing,” but have instead “descended into pseudo-studies... faddish social justice issues, turned hypervigilant on their students’ ‘comfort levels’ and are pruriently concerned with sexism narratives, cause politics and ‘identity’ zealotry.” Although she teaches Canadian literature, Erin pointed out at the time that she also teaches her students about Canada’s colonial legacy, and “about the violences of Canada’s historic and contemporary relationships with First Peoples.”

“For example, I strive to teach my students about what an ongoing national failure to meaningfully acknowledge and address the ongoing crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women has to do with early narrative representations of First Nations peoples in settler-colonial literature. Oh yes, and I teach my students from a feminist and anti-racist perspective.” In an article on Dalhousie’s website entitled Experiential Learning in the Humanities, the uni lauds Dr. Wunker — she got her PhD from the University of Calgary — for the “large, broad and zany” ideas she encourages in her students: “In one noteworthy project, one of her students created what Dr. Wunker considers ‘an affective map of the city.’ Using Google, the student set up an open-access map of the city of Halifax, and invited people to drop pins in areas where they’ve cried in public.” (A settler-colonial bastard like Hugh MacLennan could never have inspired such an important piece of work! — ed.)

Surely very little crying takes place on Davison Street in Halifax’s North End, where Erin shacks up with fellow Dal English prof Bart Vautour, who I understand is also quite committed to social justice issues. Shortly after Wunker of the Week hit the web (Frank 726), one of her former students contacted me to advise that the good doctor had once taken a large amount of class time to conduct something called an “equity caucus” about how not to offend people.

In other words, if you’re actually interested in learning anything about Canadian literature, you’d be wise to walk right on by Dr. Wunker’s classroom. As for her petition, in which she calls the controversial cartoon a “deliberately hateful act” and demands that Frank be removed from store shelves, only one out of every five signatories, about 2,600, even hail from Canada. I am rather at a loss to say why so many British Columbians, Americans, Germans, Brazilians, etc. feel passionate enough about the contents of Nova Scotia’s Frank Magazine to take seven seconds out of their day and put their name to an online petition. The site allowed me to scroll through 250 of the most recent Canadian names the other day, and only 24 of them said they were located in Nova Scotia

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