Profile
Search
Register
Log in
publisher removing "nigger" from Twain books
View previous topic | View next topic >

Post new topic Reply to topic
Strange Famous Forum > Social stuff. Political stuff. KNOWMORE

Author Message
jakethesnake
guy who cried about wrestling being real


Joined: 03 Feb 2006
Posts: 6311
Location: airstrip one
 Reply with quote  

I am also eagerly awaiting the irony of someone changing offensive words in "1984".
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:52 pm
 View user's profile Send private message AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
medicineman
HALFLING


Joined: 21 Apr 2007
Posts: 1393
Location: Iowa City
 Reply with quote  

Mark in Minnesota wrote:


The point is that Shakespeare didn't write a menstruation joke.


What?
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:14 pm
 View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address
Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 2019
Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
 Reply with quote  

Z-0 wrote:
does this approved editing of the "obsolete" parts apply only to literature? should we edit cinema art as our sensibilities change? should music be edited? where do you end the editing process in time? when the language no longer represents what was written by the author, but this new language retains the authors intention? dont you lose the authors intentions via multiple reinterpretations? even if it is one word at a time? slippery slope.

i'll also say i dont believe a classic novel or story is necessarily eternal. it has a generational life span. it doesnt need to be updated or revised so that present or future generations can enjoy it as our grandparents, parents, and possibly we did. as such it should be left to represent the time in which it was crafted. that's one of the great gifts of literature.


No, literature isn't the only place where this applies.

- In cinema, films are routinely colorized, restored, subtitled and overdubbed for new languages, placed on DVD with new cuts different from the theatrical versions, etc. Not to mention remakes.
- In music, songs performed live change their character over time, potentially even adding or modifying whole verses, or retaining their essential character while being used in entirely different arrangements. The entire concept of a jazz standard revolves around this, and we see the same thing with the Star Spangled Banner. Recorded music is frequently re-mastered and is sometimes even re-recorded by the original artists to produce versions that are considered more authoritative than the original releases. All of this without even mentioning things like covers, samples, homages.
- Restoration of art and antiques attempts to make physical alterations to unique objects that bring them back to their originally intended condition -- objects of art weather and decay with age and the removal of this weathering is intended to return a given composition (whether a centuries-old oil painting or a vintage car) to the originally intended appearance.

You're right that updating/revision isn't necessary -- and again, in both the Mark Twain situation and in the Othello example I raised, the original text will continue to exist and be widely taught regardless of how specific individuals revise a copy of that work for consumption by a specific audience. That being said, I think it can deepen our understanding of a classic to consume it in multiple forms that both seek to preserve or at least approximate the author's original intent in a variety of ways.

I would say the time to stop editing, restoration, preservation, etc. of any artistic work in any medium is when that work stops being culturally and historically relevant.

There are really two separate arguments going on here simultaneously, I think it would be better to separate them somewhat. The first argument:
1. Given that language is a living and changing thing, and that particular words and idioms can pick up an altered semantic or emotional content over time, is it ever appropriate to make changes to a work that bring it more closely in line with what we understand to be the author's original intentions?
2. In this particular case, the change in vocabulary in these two Mark Twain novels attempts to make that exact kind of restoration. Does this revision succeed or fail in its own stated goals? Why or why not?

futuristxen asked, sarcastically, if we ought to edit Lolita to bring the young girl's age up to the modern age of consent, so as to make the content less shocking to modern audiences. The answer to that question is clearly 'no' -- the age difference between the 12-year-old girl and the narrator was intended to be scandalous at the time the book was written. However this question of hers muddles the two discussion topics I have described above. My answer is "Yes, we should consider supporting revisions of Nabokov, after his works enter the public domain, if there's a way we can do so which more closely aligns the modern context of the work with the author's original/historical intent. No, the suggested revision would not do that."

We need to be able to discuss these two things independently. Is revision of a classic ever appropriate, and does this particular revision succeed or fail in its goals. In the case of the Alan Gribben's revisions I'm an emphatic "yes" on the first point and somewhat less emphatic but still a "yes" on the second point. It's not clear to me from futuristxen's responses to me whether she is a "no" on both points or only on the second one.

As to the slippery slope argument: Unlike the restoration of a physical object of art where the medium is physical materials, the restoration of a literary work is done in a way that leaves the original language intact. If subsequent revisions of the work travel too far down the slippery slope and clearly take the work outside of what the author wanted it to say, the remedy is clear: discard the failed revisions and return to something closer to the original text. I think the value of Gribben's revised text is highest when we are able to read it side by side with the original.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:57 pm
 View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 2019
Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
 Reply with quote  

medicineman wrote:
Mark in Minnesota wrote:


The point is that Shakespeare didn't write a menstruation joke.


What?


The line 'O bloody period!' in the final scene of Othello can be seen to refer to menstruation today, at least in a "that's what she said!" kind of context. My understanding is that this wasn't true at the time the play was written. Had Shakespeare somehow been able to live and control the performances of his works over several centuries, he almost certainly would have altered that line for modern/contemporary performances of the work.

Over time, his language has shifted underneath him; presumably his goal would be to tell the same essential story he had always been trying to tell, even though the audiences he would now be trying to tell it to have an entirely different vocabulary and idiom than did the audiences who first saw his play performed hundreds of years earlier.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:06 pm
 View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
the mean
Certified O.G.


Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Posts: 6497
Location: philly/sacto/kauai/ohio
 Reply with quote  

crash wrote:
how have they re-written the constitution?

You know, by saying that separation of church and state and nonsense like that is in the Constitution.

Glad someone else picked up on mp3d's random unrelated nonsense.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:18 pm
 View user's profile Send private message
crash



Joined: 07 Aug 2003
Posts: 5456
Location: the chocolate city with a marshmallow center and a graham cracker crust of corruption
 Reply with quote  

i did some searching and found this:

http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=83364

i can't find anything on an actual legitimate news site though.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:33 pm
 View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 2019
Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
 Reply with quote  

A short IM conversation between me and a friend on the distinction I'm trying to make about whether any revision is acceptable and whether this specific revision accomplishes its goals:

m: Most of those 200+ uses of that word are using it as an appellative, not as a pejorative. That word no longer has a non-pejorative usage.

d: Yes. And reading the book and realizing that it used to is a powerful and important thing. The book is a history lesson as is.

d: Changing it changes the history lesson. Is that a valid reason to change it? Maybe, but only as long as it's clear it's expurgated.

m: I agree, but I also think that there's something to be said for trying to read the book two ways.

m: Expurgate is a strong word and possibly not appropriate.

m: Would we call Chaucer's work expurgated when it's translated out of Middle English?

d: Have you read Chaucer in Middle English? It's not intelligible. Drift in perjorative/non-perjorative usage between now and twains time is not the same thing as middle english to modern english translation. Saying they are the same is a grave misconception, IMHO.

m: The question is, in revising Twain, are we modifying the text to make it less objectionable than Twain intended, or to keep the text from being more objectionable than Twain intended?

m: Expurgated implies the former.

m: I do agree that the book should be shipped with an introduction explaining what edits were made, and why.

d: Translating from middle english to modern english is necessary in order to consume the work at all, much as translating something from spanish to english is required if a non-spanish speaker is to consume it. modifying the usage of a word which today has only perjorative connotations vs. leaving it as written and offending modern sensibilities is not the same activity as making something written in a foreign language intelligible.
I think expurgated is exactly the right term.

m: So, which are we doing in revising Twain?

d: Expurgating the text.

m: Making the text less objectionable than he intended, or restoring the tone to its original intent?

d: We are discussing three different things which are all completely distinct:

d: 1. translating text from one language to another so as to make it intelligible.

d: 2. Maintaining original artistic intent via updating language to modern forms to take into account changes in connotation, idiom, and usage

d: 3. Censorship

d: Specifically, censorship in the service of modern sensibilities.

m: There are two ways for a modern English speaker to read Chaucer:

m: 1. To read a translation.

m: 2. To sit down with the original text and perform a translation.

m: If we leave Twain's original appellative uses of the word "nigger" intact, we are asking the modern English speaker (who does not have an appellative use of that word, only a pejorative one) to perform a much more limited version of that same on-the-fly translation.

d: Mark Twain horrified people with Huckleberry Finn.

d: I think Mark Twain would argue that expurgating his text to remove 'nigger' because there is now no non-perjorative usage of the text would change his intent in writing it.

d: He would be thrilled there is now no non-perjorative usage for the word, I think. And he would want to preserve the historical record of a time when there was.

d: Obviously, I'm not a Twain scholar, and I can't say that for certain.

d: But that's certain how I would interpret this, and how I feel about it.

m: Well, okay then.

m: Your conclusion there is that when Twain wrote that book, he specifically desired for people to make the on-the-fly translation from modern pejorative to obsolete appellative.

d: Yes.

m: That's a totally valid perspective, and puts me in mind of A Clockwork Orange, which included a bunch of untranslated Russian vocabulary for the same reason.

d: That's exactly the kind of smart-assery that Twain loved.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:01 pm
 View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 19373
Location: Tighten Your Bible Belt
 Reply with quote  

Mark in Minnesota wrote:
medicineman wrote:
Mark in Minnesota wrote:


The point is that Shakespeare didn't write a menstruation joke.


What?


The line 'O bloody period!' in the final scene of Othello can be seen to refer to menstruation today, at least in a "that's what she said!" kind of context. My understanding is that this wasn't true at the time the play was written. Had Shakespeare somehow been able to live and control the performances of his works over several centuries, he almost certainly would have altered that line for modern/contemporary performances of the work.

Over time, his language has shifted underneath him; presumably his goal would be to tell the same essential story he had always been trying to tell, even though the audiences he would now be trying to tell it to have an entirely different vocabulary and idiom than did the audiences who first saw his play performed hundreds of years earlier.


Annotations are a more effective and less offensive way of dealing with these issues. You keep the authors word choice and rhythm, while still informing the audience of the original context.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:22 pm
 View user's profile Send private message AIM Address MSN Messenger
medicineman
HALFLING


Joined: 21 Apr 2007
Posts: 1393
Location: Iowa City
 Reply with quote  

Mark in Minnesota wrote:
medicineman wrote:
Mark in Minnesota wrote:


The point is that Shakespeare didn't write a menstruation joke.


What?


The line 'O bloody period!' in the final scene of Othello can be seen to refer to menstruation today, at least in a "that's what she said!" kind of context. My understanding is that this wasn't true at the time the play was written. Had Shakespeare somehow been able to live and control the performances of his works over several centuries, he almost certainly would have altered that line for modern/contemporary performances of the work.

Over time, his language has shifted underneath him; presumably his goal would be to tell the same essential story he had always been trying to tell, even though the audiences he would now be trying to tell it to have an entirely different vocabulary and idiom than did the audiences who first saw his play performed hundreds of years earlier.


Okay, I'm not really familiar enough with Shakespeare to be able to know that exactly. From my cursory understanding of Shakespeare, however, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that he did make a menstruation joke at some point. Hence my confusion.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:30 pm
 View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address
futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 19373
Location: Tighten Your Bible Belt
 Reply with quote  

Mark in Minnesota wrote:
A short IM conversation between me and a friend on the distinction I'm trying to make about whether any revision is acceptable and whether this specific revision accomplishes its goals:

m: Most of those 200+ uses of that word are using it as an appellative, not as a pejorative. That word no longer has a non-pejorative usage.

d: Yes. And reading the book and realizing that it used to is a powerful and important thing. The book is a history lesson as is.

d: Changing it changes the history lesson. Is that a valid reason to change it? Maybe, but only as long as it's clear it's expurgated.

m: I agree, but I also think that there's something to be said for trying to read the book two ways.

m: Expurgate is a strong word and possibly not appropriate.

m: Would we call Chaucer's work expurgated when it's translated out of Middle English?

d: Have you read Chaucer in Middle English? It's not intelligible. Drift in perjorative/non-perjorative usage between now and twains time is not the same thing as middle english to modern english translation. Saying they are the same is a grave misconception, IMHO.

m: The question is, in revising Twain, are we modifying the text to make it less objectionable than Twain intended, or to keep the text from being more objectionable than Twain intended?

m: Expurgated implies the former.

m: I do agree that the book should be shipped with an introduction explaining what edits were made, and why.

d: Translating from middle english to modern english is necessary in order to consume the work at all, much as translating something from spanish to english is required if a non-spanish speaker is to consume it. modifying the usage of a word which today has only perjorative connotations vs. leaving it as written and offending modern sensibilities is not the same activity as making something written in a foreign language intelligible.
I think expurgated is exactly the right term.

m: So, which are we doing in revising Twain?

d: Expurgating the text.

m: Making the text less objectionable than he intended, or restoring the tone to its original intent?

d: We are discussing three different things which are all completely distinct:

d: 1. translating text from one language to another so as to make it intelligible.

d: 2. Maintaining original artistic intent via updating language to modern forms to take into account changes in connotation, idiom, and usage

d: 3. Censorship

d: Specifically, censorship in the service of modern sensibilities.

m: There are two ways for a modern English speaker to read Chaucer:

m: 1. To read a translation.

m: 2. To sit down with the original text and perform a translation.

m: If we leave Twain's original appellative uses of the word "nigger" intact, we are asking the modern English speaker (who does not have an appellative use of that word, only a pejorative one) to perform a much more limited version of that same on-the-fly translation.

d: Mark Twain horrified people with Huckleberry Finn.

d: I think Mark Twain would argue that expurgating his text to remove 'nigger' because there is now no non-perjorative usage of the text would change his intent in writing it.

d: He would be thrilled there is now no non-perjorative usage for the word, I think. And he would want to preserve the historical record of a time when there was.

d: Obviously, I'm not a Twain scholar, and I can't say that for certain.

d: But that's certain how I would interpret this, and how I feel about it.

m: Well, okay then.

m: Your conclusion there is that when Twain wrote that book, he specifically desired for people to make the on-the-fly translation from modern pejorative to obsolete appellative.

d: Yes.

m: That's a totally valid perspective, and puts me in mind of A Clockwork Orange, which included a bunch of untranslated Russian vocabulary for the same reason.

d: That's exactly the kind of smart-assery that Twain loved.


Your friend D is on point, and said much of the things that I would have said in a similar conversation.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:31 pm
 View user's profile Send private message AIM Address MSN Messenger
T-Wrex
p00ny tang


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 6405
Location: Detroit, Michigan
 Reply with quote  

jakethesnake wrote:
I am also eagerly awaiting the irony of someone changing offensive words in "1984".


Sarah Palin is going to lobby to change it to 1979 and blame it on Jimmy Carter or 2008 and blame King O. cuz nothing bad ever happened during the Reagan Years...
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:45 pm
 View user's profile Send private message
poisonfree



Joined: 23 Aug 2002
Posts: 1518
Location: Macramento
 Reply with quote  

Mark is Spot on, it's not as outrageous as it seems, and happens quite frequently. I agree with Sarah though, it provides a great oppurtunity to take time out and discuss the word, racism, and the cultural significance. The problem is however most teachers don't adequately address issues such as racism, or sexism, etc either for fear of letters from parents, insecurity, or ignorance on the subject. This helps perpetuate the idea of a "Color Blind Society" which does farm more harm than good.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:38 pm
 View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
Confidential



Joined: 23 Jan 2004
Posts: 2040
 Reply with quote  

True dat. This colorblind mythology is really not helping, not much is going to change on an institutional level until that gets addressed in a systematic way in classrooms, but I guess we can't expect an anti-racist curriculum any time soon. And I can understand the rationale being made for changing the word.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:04 pm
 View user's profile Send private message
Elorza



Joined: 18 Sep 2002
Posts: 1003
Location: east coast
 Reply with quote  

No.

There are no two ways about this. Author's intent v. revisionist censorship. If this teacher explained--before he "taught"
the literature--that he replaced the word in question because he's tentative to say the word, okay, at least your competent students can understand that you are too sensitive (with complete and utter disregard for historical-social relevance) to expound upon a word that is riddled with negativity (vis a vis cracker ass crackers). I can't imagine he's gonna hold a whole class on the significance of his disregarding the word (assumption) which would put this all into a different perspective.

His explicit reasoning is that he's too afraid/timid/guilty to read the word aloud; not that he has some grandiose ideology of why such a word is unnecessary in the overall "canon" of American literature.

I do not think that crackers should feel comfortable about saying the word "nigger" at all, but we are damn sure free to talk about why it makes us uncomfortable; particularly in an educational setting. This motherfucker is just being scared and lazy... talk about Higher Learning
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:59 pm
 View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
the mean
Certified O.G.


Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Posts: 6497
Location: philly/sacto/kauai/ohio
 Reply with quote  

I really can't make myself care about this.

Some publisher thinks they can get more $$$ by changing a book. It looks like they have the legal right to do this.

I think it is kind of silly, but the book is widely available, both online and in print in its original form.

I find the white people outrage all over the internet more disturbing.
Post Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:06 am
 View user's profile Send private message

Post new topic Reply to topic
Jump to:  
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
All times are GMT - 6 Hours.
The time now is Thu Oct 30, 2014 6:38 am
  Display posts from previous:      


Powered by phpBB: © 2001 phpBB Group
Template created by The Fathom
Based on template of Nick Mahon