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dennis eddings <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 13 Jan 2011 11:28:32 -0800
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I haven't weighed in on this, being a firm admirer of Dr. Gribben's extensive work with Twain and being really put off by the uncivil tone of many of the remarks this new "edition" has generated.  (Was any one listening to the President last night?)  But there are implications in this edition that transcend Twain and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Yes, Twain would emend words and passages that offended or bothered Livy or Howells.  But those were his choices, not the choices of an external editor.  With Twain's death, he obviously could make no further choices, and I'm not aware that he appointed any future editors to take that task over for him.  But there have been many who were more than willing to assume that mantle, one of the more egregious meddlers, given their "authority" in textual matters re Twain, being The University of California Press, which saw fit to reinclude the "Raftsman's Passage" that Twain cut from the ms. of "HF."  Sorry, but as far as I'm concerned authorial intent trumps all the arguments UC Press could advance for that inclusion.  Twain took it out, so who are we to put it back in?  Gribben's word substitution is, it seems to me, somewhat of a logical extension of this.

More troubling to me, however, is the question of where does this stop?  Do we take out that troublesome "N" word from, say,from "The Sun Also Rises"?  From Faulkner
From "To Kill a Mockingbird"?   And what of all the violence in so much of American literature?  Surely we must protect our innocent, sensitive children from that.  So let's excise Pap's tirade all together.  Let's get the sexual violence out of Morrison.  Let's domesticate Alec in "A Clockwork Orange."  Oh, and while doing that we should most likely clean up that horrid Nadsat Alec and his Droogies use.  

But I hope that's enough to make my point.  Sanitizing other people's works to fit our own procrustean bed of appropriateness is, finally, a never-ending process that leaves the author and his/her work trodden under the muck of whatever political correctness is temporarily ruling the roost.

Even more frightening is the prospect of total textual anarchy.  Since we have already reached the point where we can electronically build our own text book, what's to prevent us from altering them in any way that meets our fancy?  Or, better yet, allowing each student to alter the works to meet every individual crotchett that's out there?  But wait, perhaps that's the answer, for altering the text would mean reading it.  And isn't that the point after all, that we want the students to read what the author wrote, not what we rewrote?

I'm not questioning Gribben's good intentions; I have too much respect for his other work.  But the slippery slope to all sorts of insanity is, to me, readily apparent in this "edition" of HF.

dennis eddings