|New ‘Huck Finn’ to lose derogatory ‘n-word’|
|Written by Erin Hogg, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Monday, 10 January 2011 19:57|
A new edition of the Mark Twain classic, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” will be published with all instances of the derogatory n-word replaced with slave, according to CNN.
NewSouth Books is publishing the new edition written by Alan Gribben, a Twain expert. According to the article, Gribben said his version “is not an attempt to neuter the classic but rather to update it.”
“‘Huck Finn’ was written in 1885, a time in American history when slavery was abolished, the Reconstruction had ended and white supremacy was coming back. Segregation was part of American life and Twain was making a statement on what was going on in 1885,” Christopher De Santis, English professor, explained.
De Santis said Gribben is compromising the potential of future readers to understand the novel as a critical indictment through one of the most racially conflicted moments in U.S. history.
He added that in his “Tensions in Black and White: Race and the American Novel” course this semester, students will be reading novels containing the use of the word.
“This process of expurgation is a terrible precedent to set, and I wonder if soon we will start seeing ‘sanitized’ versions of W.E.B. Du Bois’s ‘The Souls of Black Folk,’ Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved,’ William Faulkner’s ‘Light in August,’ or Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ all of which include multiple uses of the word,” he said.
De Santis added that deleting the use of the n-word from “Huck Finn” would let responsibility slide from teachers.
“By deleting the word, it would be failing students who would not get to fully understand the word and its context in the book. Teachers would not have to accept responsibility for teaching it, and it would be misunderstood by students who would hear it elsewhere,” he said.
Kristin Dykstra, associate professor of English, explained how some parents would agree to this censorship of the word.
“It’s completely understandable that parents who see their children exposed to negative images and language are going to be frustrated and demand changes — especially where our school systems still fail to present more complex and diverse representations of people of color, and where they have failed to hire more diverse groups of teachers,” Dykstra said.
“However, misrepresenting literary history in educational settings doesn’t offer any real solution to these broad social tensions. Students who are taught a whitewashed history will, as they move forward, fail to understand important events, works, interventions and activism responding to the reality of the nation’s past — including major works by African-American writers,” she added.
Dykstra said teachers who incorporate “Huck Finn” into their lessons need to be prepared to have critical discussions rather than trying to whitewash history.
“It’s so important to keep updating our curricula and teacher education programs as to not eliminate or censor the historical works that present us with important social problems, but to frame them in a way that works better,” she said.