What exactly do you expect those of us in the academy to do? We can offer
statements disagreeing with the arguments that led to this new edition. And
we can choose both not to use it and to counsel teachers not to use it. (In
doing that, we also need to take complaints about the book seriously by
minority readers, and we need to step up and do a better job teaching future
and present teachers who struggle with the book in their classrooms -- too
often we are quick to dismiss readers and offer only condescending comment
instead of real instruction.) But once that is done, what remains?
I did an interview with a newspaper that was published on Sunday (the
Syracuse Post-Standard). Reading through the comments that were posted, I
was surprised to find one person -- a reader of Twain -- had placed a call
to Alan Gribben's institution hoping to complain directly to Alan (really it
seemed to yell at him). Is that the route we are headed? God, I hope not.
It also seems to me that we live in a time that demonstrates the power of
language. Our political and cultural "debate" in the United States has
become incoherent because of the use of personal attacks and tests for
ideological purity. And there is some likelihood that we have lost the
ability to disagree and have moved instead toward a kind of psychological
and even physical violence. We can at least offer some example of how to
disagree -- with some element of respect. Without that, comes chaos.
Supporting an individual's right to offer a different approach to Twain and
his writing (even to the point of making ruinous changes to a text) is
within a long tradition of academic argument. Perhaps we could all gain
some small status from flaming each other. But it would hardly be worth the
On Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 1:48 PM, Dan Davis <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I know. I said I would be quiet for a while. But now that NewSouth is
> beginning to assemble on its website a long sampling of quotes from those
> who, inexplicably, have chosen to defend this new publication, it seems
> especially important to keep the discussion alive. The sense I continue to
> have -- that many who should know better are responding to this event with
> yawn and a shrug -- is nicely highlighted in this editorial:
> In this light, and after spending many hours looking at the public's
> reaction to this news, I find it quite disappointing that there has been
> little more than a whimper from the academic community. Indeed, it seems
> some on this list can hardly wait for people to stop talking about it.
> What's that all about? The world is looking to academia to help them
> understand this news and its implications, but to date they hear little
> than crickets chirping.
> If anyone here honestly considers Gribben's position defensible*, I'd
> certainly like to see the argument laid out, point by point.
> Keep in mind that it is a relatively simple matter to objectively prove
> Gribben's edits have altered the meaning of the text -- his
> to the contrary notwithstanding.
> Dan Davis
> Atlanta, GA
> * When I say "defensible" I mean supportable by means other than emotional
> references to Dr. Gribben's credentials, experience, reputation, or
> all-around good-guy personality.
Michael J. Kiskis
Leonard Tydings Grant Professor of American Literature
One Park Place
Elmira, NY 14901