I don’t want literature turned into Orwellian newspeak. What makes literature literature as opposed to entertainment or drivel is that is says something about life, about the times in which it is supposed to have taken place, and it has staying power.
I’m saying this in reaction to something I just read about someone publishing a new volume of Mark Twain works, but he is going to take out the dreaded N word (well it is used some 200 or more times in Huck Finn) and other “objectionable references”, such as Injun Joe being changed to Indian Joe in Tom Sawyer. Oh, and that N word is being changed to “slave“.
While just using the N word does not necessarily make something literature — I often note that word is used quite often in literature of the past — changing the author’s original words degrades the work and does indeed take the literature out of literature. Twain said that the difference between one choice of a word and the right word is something like the difference between lightning bug and lightning.
Some people just want to be entertained and have no real use or interest in literature, just like apparently a whole lot of people just want entertainment fare on television and the movies, skip the quality.
But a society that strips itself of its literature (and I include written and other forms, such as movies), strips itself of its soul and its historical understanding of itself.
Now certainly requiring school kids, especially young ones, to read works that have offending words in them is a touchy subject. There needs to be explanation, and perhaps it needs to be figured out which books are age appropriate.
Strangely, though, I read the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when I was real young and just thought it a highly entertaining story. I already knew that he was using a no-no word (or words), but my parents had explained the deal with that word to me already.
I hate to admit it, but I did not know until I took a college literature class that Huck Finn was considered THE American novel.
I have to assume learned people, historians and others, have concluded that Twain was, besides being quite colorful in his descriptions, accurate in his depiction of Americana of the era in which he wrote.
If you change his words, it’s no longer accurate.
I understand there have been past attempts to tone down or water down Twain.
What’s the point?
If students can’t handle literature, how can they handle life?
The item that induced me to make this post is: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_revising_mark_twain;_ylt=AlG6DxmG.qqcjJvlAUdD8Fqs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNyZjNmdWttBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwMTA1L3VzX3JldmlzaW5nX21hcmtfdHdhaW4EY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwMxMARwb3MDNwRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX2hlYWRsaW5lX2xpc3QEc2xrA25ld2VkaXRpb25yZQ—