Thursday, 6 January 2011

With regards the use of the word nigger in Huckleberry Finn

I'm not sure where I stand on this, to be honest (1).

Part of me rejects the idea entirely, as another symptom of the creeping crapification of everything, where our culture and history slowly blurs into a horribly banal MacDonalds vision of how things should be.

The other part of me - the part that occasionally labours as an English teacher - would quite like to be able to read a yarn like Huckleberry Finn without having to worry about it provoking violence every third page. If you want to discuss issues about racism with your students, and how perceptions have changed, that's one thing. If you're wanting to introduce them to a good story, that's another.

Given that some schools have banned the original book altogether, I think a lot of the opprobrium aimed at Dr Gribben is unwarranted. He''s trying to get the tale back into schools, who are the real culprits.

We already 'classic' texts extensively (Huckleberry Finn is actually quite a long and in places tedious book), this is just another stage in the process of blandification and and reduction that has been ongoing for decades. Compare any modern fairytale with its source in the Brothers Grimm and you'll see what I mean.

Of course, because it involves RACE and FREE SPEECH, liberals everywhere get to jump up and down and be excited about the deletion of a world they'd never use ... but I suppose if it gives them their little fix of danger and excitement, and makes their insulated, solar powered Ivory Towers seem a bit more edgy and street ...

Oh, the Daily Mail made itself look more than usually fantastically silly, reporting the story with a lot of frumping and huffing, but without the cojones to use the word itself:
New editions of Mark Twain’s classic novels about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer have triggered a row by removing all uses of the word ‘n*****’.
The title to the article also refers only to the 'N-word.'

If they won't print it, why get tetchy about someone else's decision to do the same?
1 - "Political correctness takes on a great American novel: Huckleberry Finn removes N-word," by Tom Leonard. Published in the Daily Mail, 5th of January, 2010. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1344192/Huckleberry-Finn-removes-N-word-Political-correctness-takes-Mark-Twains-classic.html)

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