Tuesday, January 11, 2011

'Huckleberry Finn' and 'The Wire' - Bridging Differences - Education Week

'Huckleberry Finn' and 'The Wire' - Bridging Differences - Education Week

'Huckleberry Finn' and 'The Wire'

Dear Deborah,

Words can wound, words can heal, words can inflame. Given the Constitution's First Amendment, we invariably support maximum freedom of expression, knowing that we are often extending protection to words we hate.

The latest effort to cleanse literature of a hurtful word is by now well known. NewSouth, an Alabama publisher, intends to publish a sanitized version of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, replacing the "n-word" with the word "slave." The Twain scholar Alan Gribben of Auburn University oversaw the change and believes that it will make the book less hurtful and less controversial than the original wording. As Professor Gribben surely knows, this book has been altered and censored innumerable times since it was first published in 1885. Over the past century-plus, many others have changed the n-word to "slave" or "servant" or "hand."

Bear in mind that this book is not just any old book in the school curriculum. This is the book about which Ernest Hemingway wrote: "...all modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." One assumes with certainty that Hemingway referred to the book as it was written, not to an expurgated version.