Yesterday, I wrote about the latest flap over Mark Twain’s use of the n-word in Huckleberry Finn. NYC Councilman Charles Barron apparently thinks the book should be banned: “I find it interesting that Huckleberry Finn is a classic when it says [the n-word] 200 times,” he said. Barron is not alone in his reservations. Poet and professor Sam Gwynn made this comment on yesterday’s post: “Frankly, I just can’t teach it any longer. I know it’s great, and I can lecture for a day or so about how Twain is being faithful to the dialects and to the way that people spoke back then. But trying to lecture about its literary merits takes a back seat when I see how African American students (I’m talking about teenage sophomores, taking the class for core credit) are reacting to the iterations of THAT WORD. The problem is that Twain doesn’t distinguish between those who are using the word in a “kindly” manner (we could probably assume that this is the only word for black people that Huck has ever heard) and those who are using it an an epithet. Used indiscriminately in these ways, it just makes everyone in a classroom uncomfortable. Maybe if I were a better (or younger) teacher I could use this book to challenge all kinds of assumptions about language and art. I just don’t find myself up to the fight anymore, at least at the sophomore level. I think this is a pretty good 2/3 of a novel, but I really wonder why it has become canonized as the GAN.” [That’s the Great American Novel for the uninitiated.]
more from Cynthia Haven at Book Haven here.