The University of Salford has reportedly removed sonnets and other “pre-established literary forms” from a creative writing course assessment. The university is seeking to focus on thematic writing but also stated that sonnets and other traditional forms “tend to be the products of white western culture.”Sonnets are, of course, one of the major poetic forms that have shaped creative writing for centuries. The structure of a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter has challenged students throughout education from high school to university level classes. While associated with Western literature, it is a major form associated with such great writers as Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri, John Milton and others. Even Michelangelo wrote in sonnet form.
We have recently seen calls to drop Shakespeare to combat “white supremacy” or to reduce the dominance of “white authors.”The University of Salford will now remove an exam section that required students to write the traditional forms, including sestinas and sonnets.A slideshow reportedly connected the move to “decolonising the curriculum.” First-year students may still be exposed to sonnets with other forms.
The last word should be left to Shakespeare in sonnet form who warned that “other strains of woe, which now seem woe, Compared with loss of thee will not seem so”:
“Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;
Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,
And do not drop in for an after-loss:
Ah, do not, when my heart hath ‘scoped this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a conquer’d woe;
Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,
To linger out a purposed overthrow.
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite
But in the onset come; so shall I taste
At first the very worst of fortune’s might,
And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
Compared with loss of thee will not seem so.”