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Bandini
WIZARD APPRENTICE


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publisher removing "nigger" from Twain books  Reply with quote  


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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/books/05huck.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=print

Publisher Tinkers With Twain
By JULIE BOSMAN

A new edition of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is missing something.

Throughout the book — 219 times in all — the word “nigger” is replaced by “slave,” a substitution that was made by NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Alabama, which plans to release the edition in February.

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.”)

Since the publisher discussed plans for the book this week with Publishers Weekly, it has been “assaulted” with negative e-mails and phone calls, said Suzanne La Rosa, the co-founder and publisher of NewSouth Books.

“We didn’t undertake this lightly,” Ms. La Rosa said. “If our publication fosters good discussion about how language affects learning and certainly the nature of censorship, then difficult as it is likely to be, it’s a good thing.”

The news set off a storm of angry online commentary, scolding the publisher for “censorship” and “political correctness,” or simply for the perceived sin of altering the words of a literary icon. Twain admirers have turned his hefty “Autobiography of Mark Twain,” published last year, into a best seller.

An initial print run of 7,500 copies has been planned for the revised “Huckleberry Finn.” The print edition is scheduled for publication in February, and a digital edition could go on sale as early as next week.

Mr. Gribben said no schools had expressed interest yet in teaching the book — nor did he say what ages he thought the edition appropriate for. In his introduction, however, he writes that “even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative.”

Ms. La Rosa said that the publisher had had advance orders from Barnes & Noble, Borders and other bookstores, and that she expected more orders from schools and libraries.

Some English teachers were less than thrilled about the idea of cleaning up a classic.

“I’m not offended by anything in ‘Huck Finn,’ ” said Elizabeth Absher, an English teacher at South Mountain High School in Arizona. “I am a big fan of Mark Twain, and I hear a lot worse in the hallway in front of my class.”

Ms. Absher teaches Twain short stories and makes “Huck Finn” available but does not teach it because it is too long — not because of the language.

“I think authors’ language should be left alone,” she said. “If it’s too offensive, it doesn’t belong in school, but if it expresses the way people felt about race or slavery in the context of their time, that’s something I’d talk about in teaching it.”

Tamar Lewin contributed reporting.


Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:47 am
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C.R.A.Z.Y



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i read this and all i can say is " ** groan **
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:50 am
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OM3N



Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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to deny that the "n" word does not hold cultural relevance, is to me really backwards.

I just spent the past 2 weeks in a very remote area on the Thai/Lao border and the people use the word "falang" (white foreigner) used constantly.

What is the definiition of prejudice?

To Pre-Judge right?

Well of course we will, it is human nature to find those different from us to be...... well different.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:05 am
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futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
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Ridiculous on so many levels. I see that they mean well. But they really are quite stupid.

What teacher teaches that book anyways, and doesn't explain the context of the usage of the N-word within the book? They are cowering away from a very good teachable moment, while defacing one of the greatest works of American literature.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:32 am
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xGasPricesx



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Dumb dumbdumbdumb dumbbbbbb
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:42 am
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Charlie Foxtrot



Joined: 23 Jan 2008
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Re: publisher removing "nigger" from Twain books  Reply with quote  


Quote:

“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.






Fucking Christ.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:43 am
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Sarcastro



Joined: 27 Sep 2002
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Slave please
















I'll be leaving now
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:14 am
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Dr Sagacious



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Dumb as fuck.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:15 am
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Sarcastro



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no but seriously I don't think this is that ridiculous at all. I'm certain that the books have been taken off many school's reading lists for that reason and no matter how much you want to sit behind your adult computer and say "it's part of the historical context and kids oughtta be mature enough blah blah blah" the fact is you're not getting through to any kid under 15 as soon as a word like Nigger is said. It's over. They've literally forgotten everything that came before that word, you might as well have lit the book on fire.

if changing one word around (219 times) will get this book into schools, good, go for it. End of the day I'm sure Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are famous pieces of literature for more than just the word nigger.

And later when they're douchy college kids they can pick up a real copy of it and get really really angry at the man for bastardizing a great piece of american literature.

nigger nigger nigger
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:25 am
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Charlie Foxtrot



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If they're not old enough to understand the book then they shouldn't be reading it.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:33 am
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
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I approve of this, for two reasons:
1. This is the important one: All those books are in the public domain. The original text is available online, to anyone, for free and forever. Public domain means that anyone can take a copy of the work and do whatever they want to it -- and that those changes can never become an alteration to the authoritative text, because the original text belongs to all of us.
2. It's a routine thing to update aging text for modern vernacular, particularly with material that's intended for educational use. Language is a living thing and text needs to be too. This is part of the reason why centuries-old classics in foreign languages are often subjected to fresh translations. Much of Mark Twain's text was written in a dialect of American English that is no longer spoken. Taking a piece of obsolete vernacular that has become a jarring and extreme pejorative and replacing it with a word that more clearly reflects the tone the author intended for the narrative is a good way to update the material for modern audiences.

Plenty of modern-day performances of Othello omit or alter the "O bloody period!" exclamation in the final scene, even though probably every Shakespeare classroom in the English-speaking world leaves it in the taught text. That line wasn't written for a nervous titter of confused and adolescent laughter, so it hurts the final text in ways the playwright would certainly have corrected had he lived long enough to see the need.

There's plenty of room to do this kind of thing without having to resort to cries about rewritten history or excessive political correctness. It's not even necessarily a bowdlerization, if the intent is to make the tone of the text more accessible and natural-sounding to modern audiences.

As a non-Christian, I find the debates about the relative worth of the King James and New International Version translations of the Bible a lot more fascinating.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:00 am
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futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
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Mark in Minnesota wrote:
I approve of this, for two reasons:
1. This is the important one: All those books are in the public domain. The original text is available online, to anyone, for free and forever. Public domain means that anyone can take a copy of the work and do whatever they want to it -- and that those changes can never become an alteration to the authoritative text, because the original text belongs to all of us.



Yeah but one of the core issues of Huckleberry Finn is that it is a scathing satire of entrenched racism, of which the N-word is a part. It seems an important thing to water down. Plus substituting Slave for it, dilutes the context and in some paragraphs can change the meaning of the text from the author's intent. Sure you can change it, but you shouldn't be allowed to teach it that way.


Quote:


2. It's a routine thing to update aging text for modern vernacular, particularly with material that's intended for educational use. Language is a living thing and text needs to be too. This is part of the reason why centuries-old classics in foreign languages are often subjected to fresh translations. Much of Mark Twain's text was written in a dialect of American English that is no longer spoken. Taking a piece of obsolete vernacular that has become a jarring and extreme pejorative and replacing it with a word that more clearly reflects the tone the author intended for the narrative is a good way to update the material for modern audiences.


"updating" classical text rarely pays dividends for the culture. It's one thing if you are getting a better translation of the text. But we're talking about changing a classical work in ways that may alter it's meaning in key ways--it's not an attempt to make the work more accurate--just more sanitary.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:14 am
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outpatient



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Charlie Foxtrot wrote:
If they're not old enough to understand the book then they shouldn't be reading it.


yeah. if the word becomes an issue in classrooms then teach them some scott fitzgerald or steinbeck or something. it's not like they're deprived if they get great gatsby instead.

replacing the word won't stop smartass kids from running around telling everyone what it really means, anyway.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:16 am
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Charlie Foxtrot



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Mark in Minnesota wrote:
Taking a piece of obsolete vernacular that has become a jarring and extreme pejorative and replacing it with a word that more clearly reflects the tone the author intended for the narrative is a good way to update the material for modern audiences.


Much of the purpose of the novel is to critique racism though. There's a reason words like nigger and injun were so common back then but no such common slang existed for whites. Using the word did not in and of itself reflect racism on the part of the user, but the fact that said words were so common did reflect a societal racism. In order to read the book you have to be able to understand this (otherwise you'll think all the white characters are racist). Replacing the word slave may make it easier to read but it eliminates context.

This brings us to Shakespeare. As far as Othello is concerned, if you can't withhold your snickering at a menstruation joke Shakespeare is probably above your reading level. By the same token if you can't understand the context of slurs in Huck Finn you might not be smart enough to read it.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:59 am
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Mark in Minnesota



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futuristxen wrote:
But we're talking about changing a classical work in ways that may alter it's meaning in key ways--it's not an attempt to make the work more accurate--just more sanitary.


That's the thing, the classical work remains intact, in the same way that it remained intact in spite of the abridged version I read one summer as an elementary school kid.

At worst, this approach to the text distracts from the original material, while doing little to advance our understanding of it; at best it meets at least some of the editor's stated intentions. Either way, the cost of the effort is low and the fact of the attempt is unremarkable.
Post Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:01 am
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