Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let Twain Stand

I was reading a post at Jack and Jill Politics that mentioned that a new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I read the Publisher's Weekly article referenced in the JJP post, and I have to say that I totally disagree with the move to replace "nigger" with slave.  I feel that this is all about historical context, and students need to be made aware of that context.  I was made aware of that context when I was in school, and the same was true when I read the short novel The Nigger of the "Narcissus." 

I fully recognize that "nigger" is a term that jars almost universally, but altering literary texts that use the term seems a bridge too far.  Students need to ask why "nigger" was used, or whether or not its use was really that prominent in the late 19th century, when these books were written.  I certainly can discern whether someone is using "nigger" in a negative and hurtful fashion, or simply describing a situation or work of literature that he/she has encountered.  I know that I am not alone in that capacity.  Why not let that type of discussion take place?  A teacher is then able to teach the text and have an interesting discussion about the use of words and historical contexts.  I think those are good things for students.

Leave Twain's work as it was found.

1 comment:

Micheal Sisco said...

Such is the fine line between education and political correctness ... I shudder to read the new title of the Flannery O'Connor short story "Artificial N-Word" ... I sense shades of Ray Bradbury's firemen here