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Jocelyn Chadwick <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 5 Jan 2011 22:37:06 -0500
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Many years ago, the Mark Twain House hosted a panel--Dick Gregory, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Russell Simmons, Gloria Naylor, and myself. The purpose of the panel was to discuss where the term "nigger" fitted, if it did at all, in the 20th century. While Simmons argued that African Americans, particularly young artists and musicians, had reclaimed and thereby redacted the term, making "nigger," along with other iterations, terms of endearment, others of us on the panel argued that no one entity possesses the ability to take a term laden with such history and bloodshed and struggle and transform it into a term devoid of its historicity. 

As with so many texts which contain sensitive terms, events, moments, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn seeks to compel readers to confront the ugliness of dehumanization, the hypocrisy of feigned civility, the travesty of the bond of friendship--all framed within the realm of race and racism. 

When we begin to feel the need to filter the truth from our students, when we relinquish our understanding of when and why we teach such works, and when we determine we must decide "which" of our students may read any text, based on race, gender, religion, or cultural difference, we are, my friends, in danger of losing why we are yet in both the high school and college classroom. I earnestly hope those who would censor Mark Twain and other pieces of "sensitive" literatures as, would ask those they are "trying to protect."

Knowing how to teach the work is up to us as teachers now and up to us to help those new teachers coming after us. 


Sent from my iPad

On Jan 5, 2011, at 5:18 PM, Gregg Camfield <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I agree with Larry.  I appreciate Alan's many contributions; I don't expect always to agree with him.  "It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races" and, sometimes, wisdom for those who listen to the other side.  
> I agree that _Huck_ is a hard book to take (as Jim Cox put it) and that teaching it can be difficult.  The younger the audience, the harder.  How one confronts that difficulty depends on more circumstances than I feel comfortable evaluating from my armchair. I haven't yet found a circumstance where I'd want to change the language, though I haven't ever taught the book to high school or junior high school students, especially those in underfunded, over-crowded public schools.  I believe that Jocelyn is right; teaching _Huck_ to such audiences can be done well.  I also know that not every public school teacher is able to reach the high standard she sets.  Maybe Alan's edition will give those teachers--and their students--a chance.  Again, not my choice, but I'm pro-choice in many ways.   
> Gregg
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Lawrence Howe <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 10:47 am
> Subject: Re: Language and Art editing
> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Kevin--=0A=0AI agree about being supportive of Alan Gribben, even if 
>> some o=
>> f us disagree with his decision on this point.  I think his 
>> explanation tha=
>> t his edition serves teachers who would not use the book otherwise 
>> has some=
>>  merit, though I prefer persuasion to capitulation.  His 
>> contributions to T=
>> wain scholarship over the years are not re-shaped by his involvement 
>> in thi=
>> s effort. =0A=0AYour call for support reminded me of the attacks on 
>> Tom Wor=
>> tham after an article about his collection of Twain memorabilia was circula=
>> ted. I think it was Gregg Camfield who came to Tom's side on that 
>> one.  Sad=
>> ly, Tom was quoted in the Keith Olberman piece last night.  I don't 
>> know if=
>>  Olberman amped up the tone of Tom's criticism, but I thought it was 
>> unfort=
>> unate that he was accusing Alan of being a 21st century Bowdler. =0A=0A--LH=
>> =0A=0A--- On Wed, 1/5/11, Kevin Mac Donnell 
>> <[log in to unmask]> =
>> wrote:=0A=0A> From: Kevin Mac Donnell 
>> <[log in to unmask]>=0A> Su=
>> bject: Re: Language and Art editing=0A> To: [log in to unmask]> 
>> Date: Wedn=
>> esday, January 5, 2011, 11:32 AM=0A> > at what point=0A> > does the editing=
>>  stop?=0A> >=0A> > Kit Barry=0A> > The Ephemera Archive for American 
>> Studie=
>> s=3D=0A> =0A> In this edition I think the editing stops with substituting=
>> =0A> "slave" for =0A> "nigger" and "Indian" for "Injun."=A0 
>> Somebody=0A> me=
>> ntiioned the John Wallace =0A> edition of HF, but I'd like to point 
>> out tha=
>> t he did much=0A> more than a few =0A> word substitutions. I'll give 
>> just o=
>> ne example. In the=0A> famous passage where =0A> Huck replies "No'm. 
>> Killed=
>>  a nigger" that entire sentence=0A> is deleted in =0A> Wallace's 
>> edition, w=
>> ith the result that Huck simply replies=0A> "No'm" which in =0A> turn 
>> erase=
>> s all the racism out of Aunt Sally's response. I=0A> don't think any 
>> =0A> o=
>> f us can endorse that sort of defanging of Twain's text.=0A> But if 
>> all you=
>>  do =0A> is substitute the word "slave" in Huck's reply, the 
>> racist=0A> imp=
>> act of Aunt =0A> Sally's remark remains intact. There is co 
>> comparison=0A> =
>> between this new =0A> edition and the Wallace edition.=0A> =0A> I've 
>> also s=
>> een a cyber-comment that Twain would never have=0A> allowed his texts 
>> =0A> =
>> to be defanged. Nonsense! He did it all the time, usually=0A> in 
>> response t=
>> o =0A> Livy, or Howells, or after road-testing his texts before 
>> an=0A> audi=
>> ence. In =0A> `Journalism in Tennessee' there's a newspaper editor 
>> who is=
>> =0A> described as a =0A> "crawling insect" who is "braying."=A0 
>> Really? An =
>> insect=0A> that brays? =0A> Jack-asses bray, not insects, and in 
>> Twain's ow=
>> n copy of=0A> that printed text =0A> he corrected the printed text 
>> back to =
>> "jack-ass." Without=0A> original =0A> manuscripts and revised copies 
>> of his=
>>  printed texts we may=0A> never know the =0A> full extent of Twain's 
>> self-e=
>> diting, or how much he allowed=0A> others to fiddle =0A> with his 
>> texts. Tw=
>> ain's editing was not limited to word=0A> choices. Didn't he =0A> 
>> leave out=
>>  a chapter about lynching from one book so as not=0A> to harm sales 
>> in =0A>=
>>  the south?=0A> =0A> As Twain once remarked when the Concord Library 
>> banned=
>>  HF,=0A> all of the noise =0A> and chatter would probably just sell 
>> more co=
>> pies. I hope=0A> that's the result =0A> this time around. More 
>> readers for =
>> HF!!=0A> =0A> One last thought-- quibble as we may among ourselves, 
>> I=0A> h=
>> ope we all circle =0A> our wagons if the attacks on Al Gribben 
>> escalate. He=
>>  is one=0A> of us, a friend, =0A> a boon to Twain scholarship, and a 
>> good g=
>> uy. I know a good=0A> safe-house in =0A> Austin, Texas.=0A> =0A> 
>> Kevin=0A> =
>> @=0A> Mac Donnell Rare Books=0A> 9307 Glenlake Drive=0A> Austin TX 78730=0A=
>>> 512-345-4139=0A> Member: ABAA, ILAB=0A> 
>> *************************=0A> You=
>>  may browse our books at=0A>> =0A> 
>> =0A> =0A>=
>>  =0A> -----=0A> No virus found in this message.=0A> Checked by AVG - 
>> www.av=
>>> Version: 10.0.1191 / Virus Database: 1435/3359 - 
>> Release=0A> Date=
>> : 01/04/11=0A>