TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum


Options: Use Classic View

Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 13 Feb 2018 11:11:40 -0600
text/plain (131 lines)
I should have explained my citations:

Fishkin. MT Anthology 2010.

Morrison. Intro to the OUP ed of HF 1996

Morrison. Playing in the Dark. 1992.

This last book is must reading for anyone interested in HF.

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

-----Original Message----- 
From: Kevin Mac Donnell
Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 10:56 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 'Hurtful' Harper Lee and Mark Twain dropped from Minnesota 

Toni Morrison said something very similar, which I quote in an essay I wrote
on reader responses to HF for Kent Rasmussen's recently published HF
Critical Insights. I reviewed responses from 19th, 20th, and 21st century
readers, breaking it all down by readership and looking at what little boys
had to say versus little girls, academics, general readers, book reviewers,
fellow authors, etc. I've copied and pasted in the relevant section of my
essay below and hope it survives intact. There are quite a few quotation
marks that will trigger a lot of pesky coding:

Twentieth Century African American Readers

Black writers’ reactions to the story have been just as varied. Ralph
Ellison echoed Booker T. Washington in 1953, when he wrote that Mark Twain
“does not idealize the slave, Jim. Jim is drawn in all his ignorance and
superstition, with his good traits and his bad” (Fishkin 259). In 1982
Ellison still saw Huckleberry Finn as a “fictional vision of an ideal
democracy in which the actual combines with the ideal . . . in which the
highly placed and the lowly, the black and the white . . . combine to tell
us of transcendent truth and possibility such as those discovered when Mark
Twain set Huck and Jim afloat on the raft” (Fishkin 6). Neither Washington
nor Ellison discusses the repeated presence of the word “nigger” in the
text. Not so with humorist and social activist Dick Gregory, who embraced
the word when he used it for the title of his autobiography in 1964. Says
Gregory, “Titling my book Nigger meant I was taking it back from white
folks. Mark Twain threw it up in the air and I grabbed it” (Fishkin 448).
Fairfax County school administrator John H. Wallace generated widespread
media attention when he produced a heavily sanitized edition of Huckleberry
Finn in 1983 that removed the words “nigger” and “hell” from the 
text, as
well as entire passages, rendering parts of the story absurd. Although he
acknowledged Mark Twain’s intended satire, he still saw the book as 
to young black readers. Law professor Sharon E. Rush, provoked by the pain
her young daughter felt when forced to read the book as part of her school
curriculum, wrote Huck Finn’s “Hidden” Lessons (2006), thoughtfully
explaining why she felt the book was racist and advocating that it be
removed from required curricula and taught instead as an “anticanonical 
in American literature” that demonstrates the “limits of whites’ 
toward blacks and other people of color” (Rush 149).
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s reaction to her first reading 
Huckleberry Finn was similar to that of Sharon Rush’s daughter, but she 
come to view the removal of the book from schools as a “purist yet
elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate
children” (Fishkin 409). She does not dismiss the evasion chapters or
protest the use of the word “nigger,” and focuses instead on the
relationship of Huck and Jim, and notions of fatherhood and childhood. She
also suggests that the book is “classic literature” whose “argument at 
core” cannot be dismissed (Morrison Introduction xxxi-xli). What is that
core? She wisely observes that
if we supplement our reading of Huckleberry Finn, expand it—release it 
its clutch of sentimental nostrums about lighting out to the territory,
river gods, and the fundamental innocence of Americanness—to incorporate 
contestatory, combative critique of antebellum America, it seems to be
another, fuller novel. It becomes a more beautifully complicated work that
sheds much light on some of the problems it has accumulated through
traditional readings too shy to linger over the implications of the
Africanist presence at its center (Morrison 54).

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

-----Original Message----- 
From: Barbara Schmidt
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2018 8:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 'Hurtful' Harper Lee and Mark Twain dropped from Minnesota

Every time I read about one of these "banning" controversies, I am reminded
of Jocelyn Chadwick's excellent essay in _Critical Insights: Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn_  (Salem Press, 2017). Chadwick decries such efforts which
are undertaken for "children who somehow require the aid of benevolent
white and black critics to think and reflect for them."   Chadwick further
states, "Today's students are proving more than capable of having these
hard conversations; indeed, they flourish in them because they want to
think and break apart and analyze and understand."  A highly recommended
essay from an outstanding Mark Twain scholar for any school board wrestling
with such issues.