2.10.11

Is C-wording the N-word F-worded up? (Huck Finn now sanitized for your protection)

Don't miss Nina Shen Rastogi's excellent article in Slate exploring the controversy over Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The Texts of His Companion Boy Books. This new version of the classic novels has been purged of the words that keep Huck high on the banned books lists from year to year: "nigger" and "injun". Some are chaffing at the idea of censoring Mark Twain, but Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben pragmatically told the NY Times, "I just had the idea to get us away from obsessing about this one word, and just let the stories stand alone."

Rastogi quotes Toni Morrison's response to the banning of the book...
"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."
...then goes on to make the inarguable point that
"...classrooms — and the school systems they're embedded in — aren't always idealized teaching spaces: One too-graphic sex scene in an otherwise age-appropriate book, and an administrator may decide to nix it. Or a teacher may swap it for a book that's less likely to get them angry phone calls from parents."
I would love to see Twain's books freely taught in schools, but do the "stories stand alone" without the unmistakable context of those racial epithets? Is it healthy for us as a society to look away from the evolution of both language and ideology? Retouching history prevents us from learning from it. Blithely Febreezing "nigger" from our past makes it easier to say "fag" now.

Three years ago, I devoted some rant space here on the blog to the cosmetic surgery performed on Margaret Mitchell's characters in sequels to Gone With the Wind. From Rhett is no gentleman and frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn!:
Margaret Mitchell was a product of the time and place in which she lived, and Gone With the Wind is her work. The hijacking of her characters decades after her death whether it's for the benign purpose of masking her racism with lemony freshness or with the more pragmatic goal of cranking out an instant bestseller - is almost as offensive to me as Mitchell's flattering portrayal of the KKK as gallant gentlemen defending their Heaven-blessed way of life. I think there's great historical and literary value in a book that demonstrates how deeply ingrained that thinking was (and still is for some) in Southern culture. The mamby-pambification of Rhett Butler in these sappy sequels, no matter how well written, is the rape of a great book.
I've been laboring through the hefty Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1, laughing out loud at times, occasionally shaking my head, and constantly being amazed. I think Mark Twain was an extraordinarily forward-thinking guy who knew exactly what those words meant then and strongly suspected what they would mean in the future.

Popular Posts

Do not compromise, for only the valiant can create. ~ Frank Capra

Browse by topic...

#Alzheimers #BloodCancerAwarenessMonth #dementia #howilibrary #MothersDay #sxsw #yougottohavefriends alternative cancer treatment Amazon American Cancer Society anger art ask ashley astroid galaxy tour autotune Bald in the Land of Big Hair bee gees bernie blood cancer Blood Cancer Awareness Month blue mercy blues brothers book review boxer rebellion cancer carnet de voyage CASUAL VACANCY cat stevens chemo brain chemotherapy chevy ssr City of Dark Magic climate change coping with cancer craig thompson Crazy for Trying crazy on you dave brubeck declaration of independence deep cotton did you feel like going like that dinah washington Django rheinhardt Dune dwight okita earth to joni english Enough About Me environment erica jong europe family far enough from heaven farewell summer fear of flying feminism First You Write free book gabby gifford garden of your mind ghostwriting gloria estefan gloria gaynor go with god gore vidal gotta get a message to you graphic novel grateful dead great words hanging by a thread happy holidays have a listen heart HIPPIE BOY homeopathic care hunger games hurricane isaac I feel better now I'll Have What She's Reading I'm So Effing 50 IFTTT iggy pop indie love Indie Pub Adventure Ingrid Ricks Instagram J.A. Konrath James Joyce jeff zaslow JK Rowling Joni's List just sayin kenton nelson kickstarter kill smartie breedlove kindle freebie lead zep League of Extraordinary Authors led zeppelin legitimate rape Leukemia Lymphoma Society life life in general lisa hamilton literary fiction love love and other natural disasters lymphoma Lymphoma Reasearch Foundation Magnus Flyte mavis staples memoir Merry Christmas most awesome thing ever mother daughter movie mr. rogers Music My Memories of a Future Life mystery Nancy G Brinker nerdgasm nina simone non sequitur nora ephron orna ross Orts and Excerpts parenting with cancer people being people photobomb Planned Parenthood poetry politics Promise Me prospect of my arrival publishing news random loveliness ray bradbury red cross Relay for Life remix research rabbit holes richard III richard linklater robin gibb Roz Morris sex shakespeare slide whistle social support Something Awful stairway to heaven stella link books stella's umbrella Sugarland survivorship Susan G Komen for the Cure sxsw sylvia plath that explains a lot The Book Biz The Hurricane Lover the last lecture The Secret Sisters theme song du jour todd akin Trailer Park travel unfairly awesome waking life william Gay woo woo writing craft yeats you've got mail