Leave Literature Alone

Well intentioned efforts to remove distasteful or troublesome content may make us feel good, but it’s not helping the fight against bigotry.

Craig Axford

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Source: Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

In 2017, English teacher Christina Torres wrote in defense of teaching To Kill A Mockingbird. She was writing in response to a Mississippi school district’s decision to stop using the book in class on the grounds that the use of N-word made some students “uncomfortable.”

Torres is sympathetic to the complaint, citing her own discomfort whenever she has to use the N-word while reading from the book aloud in class. However, she points out that “I should feel uncomfortable. The word is heinous and designed to cause discomfort. The thing is, if I don’t name that struggle with my students, they lose the opportunity to learn about the gravity of that word, where it comes from, and why it shouldn’t be used.” (Emphasis included).

Efforts to edit what is typically referred to as “troubling” or “offensive” language from a number of famous works of literature have been getting a lot of press lately. Roald Dahl’s works were among the first to get the media’s attention for the cleanup efforts so-called “sensitivity readers” had made to identify and expunge/rewrite any problematic words, phrases, or lines from future editions. Now…

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Craig Axford

M.A. in Environment and Management and undergraduate degrees in Anthropology & Environmental Studies. Living in Moab, Utah. A generalist, not a specialist.