One more thought for this spirited, honest discussion. In the late 1860s, if my memory serves, Twain asked Nasby why he had stopped giving his "Cussed be Canaan" piece in his public appearances. Nasby replied that he had squeezed all he could out of that "turnip," by which he meant slavery. Substituting "slave" for "nigger" in Huck clouds the issue, making it easy for the reader who wishes to distance himself/herself from the core issue, which, of course, was not slavery per se. Since Twain was going after much bigger game, the racism and other forms of prejudice providing the basis/excuse for many forms of inhumanity, use of the word "nigger," still in common parlance in Twain's Jim Crow America, is critical, while reliance on the term "slave" potentially lets the predisposed reader off the moral hook. I understand and sympathize with the teaching concerns of Kevin and Dr. Gribben, but I guess I'm in favor of remaining offended by the word's
undiluted power every time I read Huck.
--- On Tue, 1/4/11, Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
From: Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 4:27 PM
I think this edition of HF is sparking exactly the debate that would be
expected. The Wallace edition sparked a similar debate. I wonder if both
debates are misdirected.
As a member of the textual purist camp, I have an uneasy feeling about
tinkering with Twain's texts for any reason. But if the reason is to bring
the text to a readership that would otherwise not experience the book at
all, and the textual change is openly acknowledged (I hope it is spelled out
in the introduction to this edition), then maybe this is a Good Thing, a
sort of HF with training wheels.
I do wonder if the word "nigger" gets in the way of teaching the book, and
distracts a young reader from the irony, dual narratives, metaphors, social
satire, etc., that make the book a great work of art, a masterpiece. I've
never taught the book, so I can't say. I've heard of black readers who
expressed anguish having to endure the repeated use of the word, and
certainly it must be a distraction for them.
But I have a more basic question-- exactly when are kids ready to read HF?
I seem to recall Twain himself saying something along the lines of Tom
Sawyer being a boy's book, and HF a book for those who were once boys (BTW,
does anybody have a citation for this quote?). That's as big a difference as
the one over the bug, with or without lightning (or lightning, with or
without the bug)..
Mac Donnell Rare Books
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Austin TX 78730
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----- Original Message -----
From: "Martin D. Zehr" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2011 2:53 PM
Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
> Sometime in the long distant past, my teenage years, to be exact, I read
> ck for the first time, a sanitized version like the one which is the
> t of this discussion.=A0 Years later, I read the real thing, and I still
> call the feeling of disgust, even anger,=A0at being cheated of the raw
> e of the banality of racism in Twain's original.=A0 I realize Huck will
> ays be a difficult book to teach, but putting another gutted version out
> r consumption by a new generation of readers, shielding them from the full
> force of the entrenched racism Twain meant to convey, is certainly not the
> answer.=A0 Just another form of "evasion," I think Twain and his
> are slighted, if not trivialized, by this form of deception.=A0 Also, it
> ill grates to see the article "The" in the title, the difference between
> e "lightning" and the "lightning bug."
> And, in case it's not apparent, this is only my idle opinion, worth what
> u've paid for it, and not meant to be a personal criticism of anyone
> ipating in this discussion or this valuable, vital forum, for that matter.
> Martin Zehr
> Kansas City, Missouri
> --- On Tue, 1/4/11, Jocelyn Chadwick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> From: Jocelyn Chadwick <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 2:09 PM
> Given the re-emergence of racial rhetoric from a variety of interesting
> venues--Congress, Arizona, South Carolina, for example, it would seem to =
> me Twain's novel is a greater must-read than ever before WITH all of the =
> original language. I understand Alan's perspective, but I also realize =3D
> that we have entered into a phase where folks attending a secession ball =
> in South Carolina are lamenting the loss of their ancestors' lifestyles; =
> where my home state of Texas=A0 has determined students have read enough =
> history about Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, women, and =3D
> any sort of difference; where the out-going Superintendent of AZ, Tom =3D
> Horne (who will=A0 also now become AZ's Attorney General), has declared
> all ethnic studies to be illegal: =3D20
> HB 2281
> The law bans K-12 classes that:
> Promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.
> Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
> Are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.
> Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of students as =3D
> "It becomes the duty of the people of Arizona, through their elected =3D
> leaders . . . to put a stop to this, and to be sure that taxpayer-funded =
> public schools teach students to treat each other as individuals, and =3D
> not on the basis of the race they happen to have been born into," Horne
> The language in "Huck" was, is, and will always be offensive and =3D
> uncomfortable;=A0 it should be; it must be,until we "get it."=A0=A0=A0Just
> my =3D
> thoughts. =3D20
> On Jan 4, 2011, at 2:38 PM, Lawrence Howe wrote:
>> I'm wondering if Alan is on-list and would like to clarify anything. =3D
>> particularly curious about how he handles the scene in which pap rails =
>> ut the educated 'nigger' that inspires his wrath against the gov'ment. =
>> his particular black man is not a slave, but free. =3D3DA0So what word =
> does thi=3D3D
>> s new text use to describe him?
>> Thanks for calling this to our attention, Michael. =3D3DA0The responses =
> on the =3D3D
>> original posting were illuminating. =3D3DA0I'm heartened to see so many =
> people =3D3D
>> take words, and even this one word, so seriously.=3D3DA0
>> --- On Tue, 1/4/11, Mark Woodhouse <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> From: Mark Woodhouse <[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Date: Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 1:05 PM
>> Good lord.
>> I didn't know Alan was doing this but I guess it doesn't surprise me. =3D
>> generates a lot of talk though doesn't it? Seems like it would make a =3D
>> classroom discussion.
>> (Although, I tried to get my CORE class to discuss the violence over =3D
>> Danish cartoons of Muhammed and I got a lot of shrugging - like, =3D
> what's the
>> big deal? So maybe I'm not a judge of what makes for a good classroom
>> discussion. It seemed like Worlds Colliding to me.)
>> I tried to look at all the comments to see if we knew anyone but I ran =
>> of steam.
>> On purely aesthetic grounds the thought of this sort of thing makes me
>> cringe. I can hear the dialogue in my head and I know I'd be mumbling =3D
>> swearing to myself as I went along, mentally re-inserting the =3D
>> On Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 1:28 PM, Michael Kiskis <[log in to unmask]> =3D
>>> A former student sent me this link to a story about a new edition of =3D
>>> to be edited by Alan Gribben.=3D3DA0 If you read the story, scroll down
> to re=3D3D
>>> the variety of comments.
>>> Michael J. Kiskis
>>> Leonard Tydings Grant Professor of American Literature
>>> Elmira College
>>> One Park Place
>>> Elmira, NY=3D3DA0 14901
>> Mark Woodhouse
>> Head of Technical Services
>> College and Mark Twain Archivist
>> Elmira College
>> One Park Place
>> Elmira NY 14901
>> 607 735 1869
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