Should the N-Word be taken out of classic school taught literature?

A new edition of “Huckleberry Finn” removes the 219 uses of the word “nigger” in the novel and replaces them with “slave.” The professor who proposed the idea said he did it because he was hesitant to pronounce the word when he was teaching the book, and because he wanted an edition “not for scholars, but for younger people and general readers.” What do you think about tinkering with a literary classic like this? Have you studied “Huck” in school? How did your teacher handle the language?

Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery, approached the publisher with the idea in July. Mr. Gribben said Tuesday that he had been teaching Mark Twain for decades and always hesitated before reading aloud the common racial epithet, which is used liberally in the book, a reflection of social attitudes in the mid-19th century.

“I found myself right out of graduate school at Berkeley not wanting to pronounce that word when I was teaching either
‘Huckleberry Finn’ or ‘Tom Sawyer,’ ” he said. “And I don’t think I’m alone.”

Mr. Gribben, who combined “Huckleberry Finn” with “Tom Sawyer” in a single volume and also supplied an introduction, said he worried that “Huckleberry Finn” had fallen off reading lists, and wanted to offer an edition that is not for scholars, but for younger people and general readers.

“I’m by no means sanitizing Mark Twain,” Mr. Gribben said. “The sharp social critiques are in there. The humor is intact. I just had the idea to get us away from obsessing about this one word, and just let the stories stand alone.” (The book also substitutes “Indian” for “injun.”)

0 responses to “Should the N-Word be taken out of classic school taught literature?”

  1. I say NO. We don’t erase the Jewish Holocaust or the eradication of the America Indian either. Literature is a part of HISTORY, and that expressed HATRED is very much a part of this country’s history.

    Lock that in.

  2. Changing the words in Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer is an example cultural laziness of society and the education of our children. I’d rather not have the books than to change the dialogues that were written to give it the flavor and the reflections of the times.

    I think teachers and parents, if they wish their children to read the book, should expect there to be some controversy and take it as President Obama would say…”a teachable moment.”
    How will we learn history if we keep revising it even in fictional of literature?


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