January 5, 2011

95.83% of NPR website readers think it's wrong to publish an edition of "Huckleberry Finn" with the n-word removed.

Of NPR readers.

108 comments:

Next Adventure said...

"edition"

tim maguire said...

They have respect for art. (Snicker all you want, but that is what this is about--defacing art in the name of political correctness.)

Coketown said...

Tim, can I snigger instead?

ricpic said...

The sivilizin' mania of the Widow Douglas's never ends.

Right, Huck?...Huck? Where is that boy?

ken in sc said...

Snigger, snigger, snigger, i won't be out sniggered by anyone, says big jim folsom.

Indigo Red said...

Next they'll be wanting to clean-up all those Hollywood movies and messing with rap songs. (pffft!)

Rialby said...

They're so niggardly with their praise.

Remember how the use of that "n" word almost got a DC Council member fired?

Comrade X said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ralph L said...

NPR website readers -- they must be the creme de la creme (meaning they're really, really white). Or they don't own radios.

Comrade X said...

This is what happens when you fight a stranger in the alps.

The Crack Emcee said...

It's a shame and a travesty.

Lem said...

I think its a shame its not 100%..

The idea that someone else can come later and change your words w/o your authorization should be universally repugnant.. even more than the mere worthless n word.

William said...

Both in denotation and connotation the verboten word was different in Twain's day than it is in ours. The fact that 95.83% of NPR readers think that it is wrong to publish a bowlderized version leads me to believe that they should do just that. In its purest form the book will be unassigned and unread. While they're at it, they should also cut out the ending. The ending is beyond stupid. It actively subverts the grand passages that come earlier in the book.

john said...

Gribben's next project is a remake of "Blazing Saddles".

MadisonMan said...

I think the publisher wants publicity.

This is a very idiotic way to get it.

Lem said...

If you change one book you open the door to change and sensor other books..

Does anybody here think that Anne Frank's Diary should be perhaps softened for the sake of some sensibility.. too negative or whatever.

Censorship people!!

Ay caramba!!

Lem said...

I shouldn't have gotten into this debate.. I need to go and do something.. But I shall return!

wv intivite - an invitation you later regret.

dcm said...

very nice, comrade x.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

What's your point?

Smoothing over the sharp edges of reality is not the province of the left; that's your side's project.

Trooper York said...

Just think of it as moderating Mark Twain's comments.

Pogo said...

No need to delete! Just have Fitty Cent read it, set to hip hop beats and samples, and all will be well.

Prolly win a Grammy.

Tibore said...

So, does this mean that 4.17% of NPR readers are black? Or that 4.17% are white liberals?

(*Ducks*)

------

And on another note: Why is it that the only historical (let's be honest, even in a fictional work, the use of the "N" word is historical in that it reflected how people spoke at the time) revisionings I can think of off the top of my head are this and Stalin's removal of people from photographs? Does that say something about me? Or about the notion of "sanitizing" historical representations?

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Just think of it as moderating Mark Twain's comments.

LOL. TYFTW.

Comrade X said...

I saw the film The Red and The White recently on Netflix.

I am pretty fucking sure I don't care to see the soviet edited version of it. If something is banned, the assholes are the ones banning it in the first place.

Maguro said...

You can already get a copy of Conrad's The N-word of the Narcissus over at Amazon. For those who are so inclined.

edutcher said...

This is the way they lived and thought. Not pretty, but you begin to appreciate your own times a bit more.

And the NPR crowd are the people who are ready to scream about the First Amendment (as if they ever read dead, 100 year old documents) and censorship. Let's all keep this in the back of our minds for the next time the Lefties want to complain about Free Speech

traditionalguy said...

How can we understand the past when we put it down the memory hole? Twain's works are what they are.

rcocean said...

I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
"All right, then, I'll GO to hell."
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Chapter 30.

I know what you'll say. You'll say it's dirty Low-down business; but what if it is? - I'm low down; and I'm agoing to steal him, and I want you to keep mum and not let on. Will you?

rcocean said...

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

Class factotum said...

the only historical ... revisionings I can think of

What about removing Churchill's cigar?

Or FDR's cigarette?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1286620/Churchill-non-smoker-How-todays-PC-censors-airbrushed-cigar.html

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/thank-you-for-never-having-smoked/

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

That's an important point, TG.

I hope what you say is the conclusion that others have either reached or assume as a part of their perspective.

c3 said...

Well, they ARE mostly white.....

racists

c3 said...

Smoothing over the sharp edges of reality is not the province of the left; that's your side's project.

Does that mean anything!?

Revenant said...

Editing the book is silly, but won't harm its value as art.

rcocean said...

I think we need to "improve" more of those 'classics'. They don't fit in to our liberal 21st Century.

We could start with '1984'.

Ralph L said...

In Jane Austen's time, "candor" meant almost the opposite of what it does today.

Why do people get the vapors over an arrangement of letters? It's the attitude behind it that matters.

Consider how "Progressive Jew" sounds from various commenters here.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Does that mean anything!?

Reboot your hard-drive, c3. Sounds like your artificial intelligence software has a bug in it.

rcocean said...

"Progressive Jew"

Geez, every time I post at Althouse the nutters show up.

Adios.

REK said...

NPR is publishing additions? Hmm ... who'd a thunk they were capable?

Pogo said...

White folks use it as part of the Weirding Way, where one can control a black person with a single word.

Penny said...

So I gather that most of you don't respect the NPR crowd and have dismissed them as liberals who don't value free speech.

Instead of bickering about them, why not use this moment to understand that our paths are crossing in agreement here.

All points of intersection are valid.

The Drill SGT said...

Lem said...
Does anybody here think that Anne Frank's Diary should be perhaps softened for the sake of some sensibility.. too negative or whatever.


Bad news, they already airbrushed out Churchill's cigar, FDR's cigarette and put FDR in a wheelchair (where he never would have allowed himself to be seen (casters revealed))

Pogo said...

Then they came for Tigger.

Craig said...

Both in denotation and connotation the verboten word was different in Twain's day than it is in ours.

Yes, the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

We must wipe it out.

Michael said...

The "editor" of this new improved version of the two iconic works removed the offensive word the 228 times it was used. Better still he replaced the offensive word injun with Indian. Mercy. Some editing job for a PhD from UC Berkley teaching at a backwater in Alabama. I suggested he turn, as a good left should, to history where he could correct to his delight. Or art where a pen knife could work wonders in the Renaissance section of the Met, Lefty filth.

knox said...

That's nothing. The new version of "Schoolhouse Rock" is all about the environment. Truly puke-worthy.

HDHouse said...

A corresponding survey take on the Fox News Network site found that 49% of of the site viewers didn't know that Mike Huckabee had a fin although many noticed the fishy odor.

Clyde said...

The other 4.17% work for the Ministry of Truth.

Just remember, when adoption of Newspeak is complete, thoughtcrime will be impossible.

Penny said...

From what I've read, Michael, the guy has spent many of years of his life studying Twain and the value of his books. "Huckleberry Finn" is number five on the banned book list in this country, and he felt it was time to do something about that in order for more kids to once again have the opportunity to read Twain's work.

Penny said...

For the curious, here is the list of banned books.

Penny said...

That SHOULD be... the list of the most frequently banned books.

Rialby said...

From Family Guy:

Jim: What did you just call me?
Huck Griffin: I thought that was your name.
Jim: That is our word. You have no right to use it.
Huck Griffin: Hey hey hey, I'm cool, I'm cool, no problem!
[pause]
Huck Griffin: So, could you pass me the oar, 'n-word Jim'?
Jim: Thank you.

Drew said...

That's nothing. The new version of "Schoolhouse Rock" is all about the environment. Truly puke-worthy.

I have a feeling that in today's overly PC environment, the original History segments of "Schoolhouse Rock" would never be aired today. Way too patriotic and views westward expansion as a positive thing.

My young daughters love it, though, and I enjoyed explaining what the Suffrage 'toon was all about and how awesome it is that they will be able to vote when they grow up.

Pogo said...

So the way to get banned books read is to bowdlerize them?

Hell, James and the Giant Peach is on the list.

Just turn them all into paragraph synopses and be done with it.

Sixty Grit said...

Pogo nails it.

He is not a reneger.

WV: backsta - that one got cut off somehow...

Revenant said...

So the way to get banned books read is to bowdlerize them?

Yes?

I don't know about you, but the Shakespeare works we studied in high school had been scrupulously edited for sexual content (of which there is quite a lot). Ditto for Greek plays.

This is a comparatively minor change. Twain used the word because he was a naturalistic writer, not because he thought it was important that the audience recognize that the characters are a bunch of racists. Trust me -- people can figure that one out without the hint.

Hagar said...

Well, you do that, it's no longer Mark Twain's work, so probably an "addition" is right.

Chef Mojo said...
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Chef Mojo said...
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Methadras said...

tim maguire said...

They have respect for art. (Snicker all you want, but that is what this is about--defacing art in the name of political correctness.)


Political correctness defaces the english language and in doing so defaces the society that uses it.

Chef Mojo said...

@Revenant:

I don't know about you, but the Shakespeare works we studied in high school had been scrupulously edited for sexual content (of which there is quite a lot). Ditto for Greek plays.

And you're obviously poorer in knowledge. You cannot possibly absorb the essence of Shakespeare or Sophocles after the gatekeepers of "decency" alter their works to protect your tender sensibilities.

In high school, I got my Shakespear and Sophocles straight, no chaser; sex, violence and all. I reveled in it and learned, unlike you.

This is a comparatively minor change.

Oh, really? In whose judgement? Yours? What right have you to pass judgement on the work of a literary giant like Twain? Simpering, quivering cowards such as yourself aren't fit to read a comic book, let alone Twain.

Twain used the word because he was a naturalistic writer, not because he thought it was important that the audience recognize that the characters are a bunch of racists.

This Twain scholar begs to differ:

http://tinyurl.com/3xabure

Trust me -- people can figure that one out without the hint.

That's just to pathetic to comment on.

Lem said...

This kind of shit is worthy of a tin horn demagogue like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.. not an American Scholar.

When has censorship not been introduced as a remedy?

Can somebody enlighten us?

bagoh20 said...

I don't know how you could make a classic less desirable to read than to commit such editing. This especially applies to the age group that should be reading it for the first time and will now consider it as tempting as making their beds.

To be well educated and then spend your time in pursuit of such epic failure is ...... well educated by modern university mores.

Lem said...

Are we entitled to know what was in "truth"..

Here we are discussing how to bastardise to vitiate a work of fiction.. if we cant leave fiction alone what could we do to "non-fiction".

I mean we know, or suspect that history books contains inaccuracies.. Lord knows exaggeration's.. but at least they are not "out in the open" about it..

Except maybe for Troopers favorite.. Doris Kearns Goodwin ;)

(she just borrows other peoples stuff)

Ralph L said...

We read Lady Chatterley's Lover at my church-affiliated high school. OK, they were Episcopalians, so it just barely counts. It was also a boys' school, so no Lady Janes were embarrassed.

It's now co-ed and so obsessed with diversity, I'm sure Huck Finn (and Faulkner, etc) isn't even mentioned.

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

And you're obviously poorer in knowledge. You cannot possibly absorb the essence of Shakespeare or Sophocles after the gatekeepers of "decency" alter their works to protect your tender sensibilities.

The Southern Baptists I grew up surrounded by thought differently. Similarly, they frowned on Bridge to Terebithia for its positive portrayal of an atheist character. I'm not saying censorship is a good thing, just pointing out that people who think bowdlerization of great works of literature as some sort of PC-inspired modern phenomenon apparently went to school in a different America than I did.

What right have you to pass judgement on the work of a literary giant like Twain?

A reader who cannot form his own opinion of a book's quality hasn't actually learned how to read yet.

Simpering, quivering cowards such as yourself

Don't get your panties in a bunch, Mojo. I already said that the change was a stupid idea. Apparently it is insufficient to roll my eyes at this; I must also work myself into a frothing rage at the SHEER! AUDACITY! OF EDITING! TWAIN!

The change is, as I said, silly, but has no more significance than changing Jim's name to John. Take this passage, from the link you posted:

Similarly when Aunt Sally asks if anyone was hurt in a reported riverboat explosion, and Huck himself answers "No'm. Killed a nigger," she replies, "Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt." The whole force of the passage lies in casual acceptance of the African American's dehumanised status

... because, gee, high school students will NEVER figure out that dehumanized status if the word "slave" is used instead.

The damning bit of that passage isn't the use of the n-word, but the "No'm" which precedes it and the "sometimes people get hurt" that follows it. From your reaction one would think Twain was incapable of conveying that a character is unenlightened without naming him "Eville T. McRacist".

Paddy O said...

I think it's perfectly fine to publish an edition of Huckleberry Finn with the n-word removed.

Huckleberry Finn is public domain. You can get the original just about anywhere you want. If editing it allows for more readers then, that's a good thing. Twain's point wasn't the word, it was the story.

On the other hand, I'm a huge Mark Twain fan and I find Huckleberry Finn to be the least interesting of his books. It's Twain for people who don't really like Twain, I think... which is a lot of English teachers, using Twain to keep kids from every liking Twain on their own.

I'd much rather see more people read a Tramp Abroad or Roughing It, or a selection of his short stories (like Captain Stormfields visit to Heaven or Some Learned Fables for Good Old Boys and Girls). Shoot, I think even Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court is much more interesting and readable, and amusing, than Huckleberry Finn.

Lem said...

Take Arthur Miller's The Crucible,
a twist of the 1950s anti-communist crusade thinly veiled as the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s..

What more noble cause than national security (the red menace) to extract a code of conduct and obedience?

The story of people offended not at not just mere words but thoughts and what those offences lead to when left unchecked is nothing new.

They were rejected before.. they should be rejected again!

Michael said...

Penny: Huck Finn is number 5 on the banned list of books in the United States because liberals have made African Americans so thin skinned that they cannot read a book, a work of fiction, without having a fucking fainting spell. This guy is doing the cause of literature or anti-censorship no favors by this stupid act of hubris riding on the high horse of political correctness. You goddamn lefties do not give one shit about banned books or the freedom of speech.

PS: Mark Twain would laugh in this turd's face.

Michael said...

Paddy O; But what if I object to the story part. Is it ok for me to change the endings because, you know, I might find it more pleasant? The world has gone fucking insane with this p.c. bullshit. Stark raving nuts.

Michael said...

Oh, and by the way, the injuns in Twain's books drank too much. We should fix that part too, right?

Lem said...

I'm sorry to heard that Paddy O..

If there is nothing wrong with changing somebody else's work.. whats wrong with coping somebody else's work?

If I can change it.. why cant I just pass it off as my own? (if I can get away with it)

I'm having a hard time with the lackadaisical manner with which some people are entertaining this.

Michael said...

I've got a better idea. Why don't we just read Maya Angelou? Why don't we make all these little boys and girls know that Maya Angelou is the greatest writer ever? We could put May Angelou books inside Mark Twain covers, or Faulkner, or Tolstoy covers so then all the little children would have read all the great books.

Lem said...

To whitewash is to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data.[1] It is especially used in the context of corporations, governments or other organizations... and now literature.

Is this a joke? Its not April Fools yet.. Not even the Onion would come up with this.

Paddy O said...

Michael and Lem, I don't think it's a matter of everything or nothing. There are boundaries.

We see this on television all the time. I can't count how many movies I saw growing up, or more recently, with changed language or deleted scenes. Sometimes it's even comical the kinds of phrases they'd put in the mouths of people saying something entirely different.

At the same time, there were a lot of movies I first saw and liked on television. I'm very glad the broadcasters played the movie, exposing me to good drama, comedy, or just some nice entertainment.

So, there's a line, but I don't think that line is drawn simply at what is certainly objectionable language -- a word that is, as far as I know, the only word not allowed here on Althouse.

It does make me think that "Saying a Word without Saying a Word" would have been another good Twain story.

bagoh20 said...

".. because, gee, high school students will NEVER figure out that dehumanized status if the word "slave" is used instead."

A perfect example of why this should not be done. Not all "niggers" were slaves. No one should assume they can rewrite someones writing, simply because they THINK they know his meaning, or worse, disagree with it. It's arrogant, and is only tolerated because the author is dead and can't come punch the editor in the nose.

Michael said...

Paddy O: Right, it is a matter of boundaries. And the author would remind you not to cross the boundary of his words. The author is dead so it is left to those who might give a flying shit about the slippery slope created by helpful people like the "editor" of these classics who believes Twain's boundary a fiction.

And, oh the horror of Mark Twain crossing the very boundary set by this very blog's proprietor. If only the editor had known he had that going for him as well. Do you, perchance, sit on a library board that has failed to provide the imprimatur to Mr. Twain?

madAsHell said...

I've heard the phrase "yo...nigger" used as a formal greeting between dazzling urbanites (apologies to Blazing Saddles).

Was it racist that I overheard the phrase?

If they can recognize each other as nigger, then why can't I join them?

traditionalguy said...

Penny's list of the most banned books included two of John Steinbeck's best works. Is there a soul so dead that he cannot allow others to read John Steinbeck's magnificent prose? I agree with Paddy O that Huck Finn is not as entertaining as Twain's other books. My favorite is Life on the Mississippi.

Lem said...

If we pretend that something - lets say bad - didn't happened.. while knowing it did happened.. how in havens name can we say we are not going to let that happen again?

We have already blurred the line with so called mocumentaries...

By going ahead with this cacamaime idea we are proving that there is no boundary.. that whitewashing, that blurring the past is not only allowed bu that it is preferred.

Pogo said...

Paddy O, it's a very slippery slope. There's a considerable difference between a Disney film version or a little kid's picture book about Twain's work and editing the book itself.

Once started, it will never stop.

HDHouse said...

Michael said...
Penny: Huck Finn is number 5 on the banned list of books in the United States because liberals have made ....yada yada yada"

I'm going to resist calling you shitforbrains but it isn't the liberals who ban books and burn books kiddo. Will you ignorance ever end?

Michael said...

I can think of no other example of political correctness that is a greater affront to African Americans than this stunt. If that is what we think of them, our brothers and sisters, I am afraid for us all.

Michael said...

HD: Listen fuckface do you think the "editor" in question is a Republican? You make me laugh. Have another drink.

el polacko said...

somebody needs to wipe that damned smirk off of that bitch mona lisa's face ! hey...it'll still be gud art, right? i just won't have to feel like she's laughing at me anymore. i got feelings too ya know.

Lem said...

btw I'm not saying there ought to be a law.. (that would be worst if such a feat were possible).. what I'm saying is that the additioned book should be rejected in the market place like it has bed bugs or something..

Like new improved Coke.


We should convince people, as diplomatically as possible, of the gargantuan error that we would be encouraging by even acknowledging the existence of such a grotesque wolf in sheep's clothing, passing off as the work of one of Americas literary giants.

(I wanted to make sure I fit in there as many cliches and bad writing as possible.. in the hopes that you people can begin to see and understand the significance of the enterprise we are discussing here)

MikeinAppalachia said...

I assume that "Roots" will now also be edited to remove the same word usage?

Lem said...

There are somethings we still (yes, still meaning never) just ought not do.. like trying to drive around a train Xcrossing while the arm in down... might get away once or twice but eventually it will catch up to you and nothing good will come of it.

William said...

So far as subverting Huckleberry Finn goes, Twain did a pretty good job with the lousy ending he tacked on to his greatest work....I agree with everyone's reservations about political correctness, but I do not think any high school teacher would wish to tread the dangerous waters of assigning this book to a racially mixed class. Life is short, and The Red Badge of Courage is also a great book. Beyond this, is the fact that most of the kids are only going to read the Cliff Notes anyway. Most teachers will dodge the problem by simply not assigning the book. Is it better to be unread and authentic than bowlderized and read?.....I think people with a real taste for literature will seek out the original version, just as they sought out the real Shakespeare back then.....The King James Bible is one of the high water marks of English literature, but when I read the Bible for narrative as opposed to poetry, I seek out the newest version. I think we should give Twain the same consideration we show the Bible.

Lem said...

Dont take it from me..

Lem said...

IMHO (f humble, this is too important to leave it to the generals ;) doing that to a book is worst than outright banning.

A book ban can historically be shown to be a failure for the sensor and a victory for the printed word.

A book re-write however.. its more insidious.

Lem said...

Two wrongs make a right fallacy

Fred4Pres said...

If our kids can't handle Huck Finn, how in the heck can we expect them to handle life?

And BTW, there is a lot worse than Huck Finn on their iPods.

Lem said...

The law of unintended consequences is an adage or idiomatic warning that an intervention in a complex system always creates unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.[2][3][4][5] Akin to Murphy's law, it is commonly used as a wry or humorous warning against the hubristic belief that humans can fully control the world around them. Many fields of study in the sciences and humanities embrace this concept, including economics, history, philosophy, political science, and sociology.

Cedarford said...

Paddy O said...
I think it's perfectly fine to publish an edition of Huckleberry Finn with the n-word removed.

Huckleberry Finn is public domain.
=============
I suppose if something is deleted, then things can be added.
Think of the progessive agenda advancing powers some careful rewriting can do to all those fine classics now in the public domain.

"Last of the Mohicans" rewritten so that Magua is a disaffected community organizer of the Hurons. A resentful halfbreed Indian-Black who justly wants the pussies if not the blood of Colonel Monroe as race-atonement.
Meanwhile, we learn that the Mohicans are in decline because of the joy of homosexual sex being widely embraced. The Mohicans are mainly known for their fabulous attire and canoe decorations. But the novel is devoted to showing how gays are great fighters, belying the bigoted Huron and French slurs that the gay fighters prefer to decorate their lodges over manlier duties,

Key to this would be Hawkeye, kidnapped as a boy by the kindly Pederast Chief Chingachgook. Clearing up a key mystery Hawkeyes odd given name, readers learn the chief nurtured him and taught him the Indian ways...but Natty Bumppo was the Chiefs special name for what he taught Hawkeye to do at night. Readers learn Hawkeye's real name was William Atherton Mobley, and his real father was a smug white who would have never taught Hawkeye as Chingachgook did in the classic, as in Greek, warrior-protege relationship.

When old enough, and complete in his day and night tutelege and because some younger chickens had arrived - the chief passed Hawkeye and the right to do the "Natty Bumppo" with him, onto his fey son, Uncas. Who entered into an Alexander-Haephestus type of Greek reationship.

The 3rd part of the book is the two mighty gay warrior brothers, bonded in blood as well as other comingled body fluids, seeking to rescue the Monroe daughters from the ravages of the dark Magua penis-wielding supremacist because they want to be BFFs to the daughters and chat with them, like forever.

===============
Next up. Steinbeck is still under copyright, but it would make more sense and be more educational if the Joads more properly refected the context of enlightened thought in 1940. You add a lot of Joads and other oppressed workers calling themselves "comarade" and talking about how the workers in Father Stalins collectives run by government beat the shantytowns. And the book ends with Tom Joad not on the run, but as head of the California "Workers Collective for FDR"

Gene said...

William: "I do not think any high school teacher would wish to tread the dangerous waters of assigning this book to a racially mixed class."

Actually, William, my wife, a high school English teacher, has taught Huck Finn many times to racially mixed classes. She addresses Twain's use of the n-word up front. She asks the students to let her know privately if they have any concerns.

She does this for two reasons--to be sure no black students are offended and to make sure no white students are so inhibited they can't speak freely.

She's never encountered anything awkward and no student (or parent) has ever complained.

Gene said...

William: "I do not think any high school teacher would wish to tread the dangerous waters of assigning this book to a racially mixed class."

Actually, William, my wife, a high school English teacher, has taught Huck Finn many times to racially mixed classes. She addresses Twain's use of the n-word up front. She asks the students to let her know privately if they have any concerns.

She does this for two reasons--to be sure no black students are offended and to make sure no white students are so inhibited they can't speak freely.

She's never encountered anything awkward and no student (or parent) has ever complained.

The Crack Emcee said...

Pogo,

No need to delete! Just have Fitty Cent read it, set to hip hop beats and samples, and all will be well.

Wrong - this is about raaaacism - have Kanye do it.

Revenant said...

If our kids can't handle Huck Finn, how in the heck can we expect them to handle life?

References to sex, drugs, and profanity get filtered out of high school syllabi not because the kids can't handle them, but because the parents can't handle their kids handling them.

Honestly, I wonder how much kids get out of the book anyway. How appealing is it to spend 270 pages watching another teenager learn lessons the reader learned years before he ever picked up the book?

Bob_R said...

I think many of you are not acknowledging the real difficulty of trying to teach Huckleberry Finn to a real class of 2011 middle school students. How do you get the students to get past this taboo word that appears all the time? How much time are you going to spend putting the language into context? Has that become the only focus of the book?

Most schools are taking the easy answer and teaching another book. Others use anthologies with only excerpts. I doubt that Bowdlerization will be effective, but it is a legitimate attempt to solve a real problem. It's just one of the many ways that we cut, paste, edit, and remix literature when we try to teach it.

Just as a side point - using the Bowdlerized text in the classroom isn't censorship if the unabridged version is available in the library. The best effect of the Bowdlerized text would be to make the unabridged version forbidden fruit.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I find it hard to understand Twain's works since they were written over 100 years ago.

Timon said...

NPR people hate it because of their idolatry of art and the artist. I don't think changing a text is that big of a deal; though I would want a change from nigerian to slave to be noted in a preface. I object to the use of "slave," however, since that does not even connote a racial distinction, except in a way to create the prejudice that only blacks were slaves, and that that form of plantation slavery was the only thing worthy of the name.

Comrade X said...

would have been simpler to just change Huck into a young black male and leave the dialogue alone.

Robert R. said...

"I think it's perfectly fine to publish an edition of Huckleberry Finn with the n-word removed.

Huckleberry Finn is public domain."

That only makes it legal.

Huckleberry Finn was written at a specific time and in a specific context. I appreciate the difficulties that the language chosen creates, but changing it to something appropriate for modern times and context is a significant change to the book. Especially since the book distinguishes between labels and reality itself.

Part of the value of teaching the classics is putting history in context. How we are like our ancestors and how we have changed. In addition to the mechanics of prose, dialogue, storytelling, etc. that goes into discussing literature. Twain's language tells us something about Twain. Just as Lovecraft's language tells us unpleasant truths about his views on race, but also makes him a great horror writer.

I suspect that the bowlderized version will not catch on beyond the initial wave of publicity. If you're going to teach Mark Twain, you'll teach unvarnished Mark Twain. Or you'll choose a different book as there's no shortage of great books.

mariner said...

I wonder how many of that 95.83% also approve of removing that same book from school curricula and libraries?

mariner said...

Class factotum,

What about removing Churchill's cigar?


Photographer Yousuf Karsh did so. The result was Churchill's famous scowl.

Shanna said...

This is the way they lived and thought. Not pretty, but you begin to appreciate your own times a bit more.

Indeed. It doesn’t make any sense to sanitize history. Read it or don’t but don’t white wash it.

The Red and The White

Interesting, just added to my Netflix queue!

Speaking of censorship, I just watched a really interesting documentary on a filmmaker called Veit Harlan who made films under Nazi Germany, in particular a film called “The Jew Suss” that was banned for years and years after WWII as a propaganda film, so much so that his kids never saw it until 10/20 years ago when it was unbanned.