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Sender: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
From: Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2011 17:53:25 -0600
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Reply-To: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Well then, by 11th grade I'd think most students would be mature enough to 
deal with the language and the historical context.

At the risk of wading into deep water without my water-wings, I think I 
understand younger students, black or white, who must feel uneasy about the 
language. But I must confess that when I hear of high school students, black 
or white, who express pain over the use of the word in this novel I am 
puzzled. Given the wide use of the term among blacks (casually, as a sign of 
affection, as well as insult), it's frequent use (in variant forms) in rap 
lyrics and movies, its use in modern fiction, and even in comedy routines, I 
don't understand why seeing it used in historical context would be 
upsetting. In fact, watching Twain using it as live ammo on his deadly 
assault against racism would seem to me an enjoyable experience. Yes, I do 
understand why the word coming from white lips carries a power it lacks 
otherwise, but Twain's use of it strips it of that power, or so it seems to me.

That said, I'll wade back to the shallows now.

Mac Donnell Rare Books
9307 Glenlake Drive
Austin TX 78730
Member: ABAA, ILAB
You may browse our books at

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jocelyn Chadwick" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2011 4:46 PM
Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

> Kevin, you hit on a significant point--the teaching of the novel, the =
> time, the people.  In the United States,  students most usually =
> encounter "Huck"  at the 11th grade-- the American literary survey. =
> Students will have experienced several of Twain's other pieces at =
> earlier grades. "A True Story," "Huck," Uncle Tom's Cabin," and now =
> works by Frances Harper and Pauline Hopkins are included, along with =
> essays, journals, etc. I have interacted with this novel and students of =
> all ethnicities for some time now, and I have yet to encounter students =
> who resolutely reject the reading of the work, IF they feel one has =
> prepared to teach/share/experience it with  them and IF they feel safe =
> in the classroom. Much of the success for the teaching of any piece of =
> American literature, whether  in high school or undergraduate, depends =
> on the teacher. I feel the goal of teaching any piece of challenging =
> literature is to encourage students to experience the work and determine =
> for themselves whether that experience enlightened them in some  way or =
> whether the experience left them flat and unaffected.=20
> By teaching  American works such as "Huck,"  modern students can begin =
> to understand that at one time language really did make a difference; =
> that words really do carry weight and consequences.

Mac Donnell Rare Books
9307 Glenlake Drive
Austin TX 78730
Member: ABAA, ILAB
You may browse our books at

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