Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
New South Books has asked Twain scholar Dr Alan Gribbens to clean it up so that it’s less offensive to children and can be put back on the curriculum lists. Dr Gribben has taken out the word “nigger” which is used 219 times in the novel and he’s replaced it with “slave.”
Is Huck Finn supposed to be easy-reading classroom material?
The answer is ‘no’ according to many, including Dr Alan Ackerman, professor of American literature at the University of Toronto who was our guest this week explaining why the ‘n-word’ should not be replaced.
Professor Ackerman told us that the use of this word is an essential component of the book and that it lays bare the inhumanity of slavery through the power of satire. And according to Professor Ackerman, Mark Twain himself would be turning in his grave if he knew that his words were being tampered with.
This is not a new issue, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison wrote about it in the 1990s when the book was being removed from classroom reading lists. She wrote:
These efforts were based, it seemed to me, on a narrow notion of how to handle the offense Mark Twain’s use of the term “nigger” would occasion for black students and the corrosive effect it would have on white ones. It struck me as a purist yet elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate children. Amputate the problem, band-aid the solution. A serious comprehensive discussion of the term by an intelligent teacher certainly would have benefited my eighth-grade class and would have spared all of us (a few blacks, many whites—mostly second-generation immigrant children) some grief. Name calling is a plague of childhood and a learned activity ripe for discussion as soon as it surfaces. Embarrassing as it had been to hear the dread word spoken, and therefore sanctioned, in my class, my experience of Jim’s epithet had little to do with my initial nervousness the book had caused.
Twain is famously quoted as saying, the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. You can listen to Ramona’s interview with Alan Ackerman here.
What do you think? Should the ‘n-word’ be taken out of Huckleberry Finn or should it stay?
More information on the debate is here: