January 10, 2011
when i was a child my mother read tom sawyer to me numerous times. i discovered huckleberry finn somewhat later, and though i can’t recall talking to mom about it, i’m sure that we must have discussed its use of the N word at some point. i’m not going to try and weigh in too much on this because others have written more eloquently about this than i am able to, and my opinion should be obvious from the title of this post.
but in case you’ve been off the grid recently and are unaware of the controversy surrounding Auburn Professor Alan Gribben’s revision of the Mark Twain classics “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, here’s a summary of what’s out there.
there’s a tremendous article in the New York Times that sums up the situation well. amongst the many good points in the article this particular statement resonated with me since it speaks to all material and not just this particular bit of insanity.
“Authors’ original texts should be sacrosanct intellectual property, whether a book is a classic or not. Tampering with a writer’s words underscores both editors’ extraordinary hubris and a cavalier attitude embraced by more and more people in this day of mash-ups, sampling and digital books — the attitude that all texts are fungible, that readers are entitled to alter as they please, that the very idea of authorship is old-fashioned.”
as you no doubt expect there are those that are of a different opinion and that point of view is represented in Rob Anderson’s editorial in the Boston Globe. and it only took a day for the other coast to reply to Mr. Anderson’s opinion, when the L.A. Times posted this editorial asking the rhetorical question, ‘what’s the harm of sanitizing ‘huck finn?’
and if all this leaves you asking yourself, ‘why do this in the first place’ this article from publishers weekly let’s Dr. Gribben tell his side of the story.
Tom Sawyer was selected for 2009’s Big Read Alabama, and the NEA tapped NewSouth, in Montgomery, to produce an edition for the project. NewSouth contracted Gribben to write the introduction, which led him to reading and speaking engagements at libraries across the state. Each reading brought groups of 80 to 100 people “eager to read, eager to talk,” but “a different kind of audience than a professor usually encounters; what we always called ‘the general reader.’
“After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” Gribben became determined to offer an alternative for grade school classrooms and “general readers” that would allow them to appreciate and enjoy all the book has to offer. “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” he said.
posting by jim who now has another reason to root against Auburn in this evening’s national championship football game.