Twain objected to the substitution of the word "nigger" with "darky," then a less offensive term. ________________________________ From: James Edstrom <[log in to unmask]> To: [log in to unmask] Sent: Wed, January 12, 2011 4:10:08 PM Subject: Re: Editorial by Ron Powers on the NewSouth HF; a request for a defense I think no words are more powerful on this subject than those of Twain himself. Dan Beard, who illustrated several of Twain's books, remembered the author's reaction to revisions of Tom Sawyer Abroad by St. Nicholas Magazine (I quote here from "Note on the Text" in the University of California Press's authoritative edition of Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective, c1982, 189-90): "When Mark read the proof he was exceedingly wroth and, entering the sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies, or the editorial department of St. Nicholas, he shocked the gentle creatures and terrified the associate editors by exclaiming, 'Any editor to whom I submit my manuscripts has an undisputed right to delete anything to which he objects but'--and his brows knit as he cried,--'God Almighty himself has no right to put words in my mouth that I never used!'" <-----Original Message-----> From: Dan Davis [[log in to unmask]] Sent: 1/11/2011 5:31:52 PM To: [log in to unmask] Subject: Re: Editorial by Ron Powers on the NewSouth HF; a request for a defense I didn't state any of that quoted text very well. Especially painful to reread is the footnote. What was written playfully (my understanding from many of your posts was that Alan Gribben really IS an all-around good guy) reads as a hefty chunk of petty sarcasm. For that I apologize and will try to choose my words and phrasings more carefully in the future. So let me try this again: Dr. Gribben makes several key assertions in his introduction for which no supporting data is offered. While I realize that an introduction is not a dissertation, controversial assertions trigger higher expectations of accountability. Some examples: "As a notoriously commercial writer who watched for every opportunity to enlarge the mass market for his works, [Twain] presumably would have been quick to adapt his language if he could have foreseen how today's audiences recoil at racial slurs in a culturally altered country." This presumption is a long leap. References to actions or statements supporting the likelihood of such a response would lend it more credibility. "I invariably substituted the word "slave" for Twain's ubiquitous n-word whenever I read any passages aloud. Students and audience members seemed to prefer this expedient, and I could detect a visible sense of relief each time, as though a nagging problem with the text had been addressed." The psychological and sociological factors driving these sorts of behaviors is complex and influenced by many factors. Were these factors considered? A much larger question, though, is the basis upon which it was concluded that an audience's apparent favorable reaction to the expurgation of an uncomfortable term is a valid basis upon which to make the decision to expurgate it. "Unquestionably both novels can be enjoyed just as deeply and authentically if readers are not obliged to confront the n-word on so many pages." I'm not aware of any evidence to support such a sweeping conclusion. I'm not sure it is even possible to design an experiment that could consistently and objectively measure the relative depth and authenticity of a reader's enjoyment across two versions of a text. Even if such could be devised, it is doubtful that "enjoyment" can legitimately be considered the intent of Twain's use of the n-word in the text. "Consequently in this edition I have translated each usage of the n-word to read 'slave' instead, since the term 'slave' is closest in meaning and implication." This is patently and demonstrably false, yet it is presented as an obvious, universally accepted fact. The n-word is a very specific and powerful epithet, while "slave" is a generic descriptor that, to my knowledge, has never been commonly used as an epithet (or even an appellation).* Finally, my footnote was intended to stress the importance of addressing the problematic aspects of this decision independent of any consideration of Alan Gribben's phenomenal credentials or his significant accomplishments. (After all, it's certainly not the first time the n-word substitution question has been raised.) In my experience, though, this Is an easy thing to say but very difficult to do, since we are all vulnerable to "appeal to authority" logical fallacies, and many here know Dr. Gribben personally. I felt it was important to point out that an appeal to Dr. Gribben's credentials, contributions, or character is not what I mean when I wish for a defense of his position. * Any more detailed discussion of the significant dissimilarities between these two words would be quite lengthy, but the bottom line is that the only acceptable substitute for an epithet ("acceptable" meaning that there is minimal loss or distortion of meaning) is another epithet with similar semantic content (should one happen to exist). Obviously, such a substitution isn't likely to resolve the objections that prompted the search for a substitute. A fairly succinct introduction to the relevant linguistic issues can be found in the first few sections of 'The Semantics of Racial Epithets' (http://www.ub.edu/logosbw/bw5/abstracts/Hom.pdf) by Christopher Hom. Dan Davis Atlanta, GA -----Original Message----- From: Mark Twain Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kevin Mac Donnell Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 1:47 PM To: [log in to unmask] Subject: Re: Editorial by Ron Powers on the NewSouth HF; a request for a defense >> If anyone here honestly considers Gribben's position defensible*, I'd >> certainly like to see the argument laid out, point by point. >> 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. *********************** Al Gribben makes his case in the introduction to the book which is available at the publisher's website. Point by point? Well, I don't know if you'll find any p'ints in his argument that make it any better'n any other argument. That's up to you, and you may agree or disagree. I pointed out that Al is one of us and deserves the same respect that anyone else does. He's done more to advance Twain scholarship than most, and some of the chatter about this new edition has been disrespectful. This is not an "emotional reference" to his "all-round good-guy personality" -- it's a plea for civility. Kevin @ Mac Donnell Rare Books 9307 Glenlake Drive Austin TX 78730 512-345-4139 Member: ABAA, ILAB ************************* You may browse our books at www.macdonnellrarebooks.com ----- No virus found in this message. Checked by AVG - www.avg.com Version: 10.0.1191 / Virus Database: 1435/3372 - Release Date: 01/10/11 .