Unnecessary censorship or necessary evil?

Please pardon our holiday hiatus! We were busy ringing in the New Year–we hope you had a chance to celebrate as well. Now we’re back and ready to take on 2011.

And we’re off to a good start! Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly picked up on NewSouth‘s upcoming combined volume of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We mentioned this volume before during Banned Book Week–its editor, Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben, has removed the racial slurs completely from the work. Dr. Gribben explains that Mark Twain’s novels “can be enjoyed deeply and authentically without those continual encounters with hundreds of now-indefensible racial slurs,” and he hopes this volume will increase readership of Twain’s two masterpieces.

Entertainment Weekly weighed in on the debate that’s been raging since this book was announced:

Unsurprisingly, there are already those who are yelling “Censorship!” as well as others with thesauruses yelling “Bowdlerization!” and “Comstockery!” Their position is understandable: Twain’s book has been one of the most often misunderstood novels of all time, continuously being accused of perpetuating the prejudiced attitudes it is criticizing, and it’s a little disheartening to see a cave-in to those who would ban a book simply because it requires context. On the other hand, if this puts the book into the hands of kids who would not otherwise be allowed to read it due to forces beyond their control (overprotective parents and the school boards they frighten), then maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. It’s unfortunate, but is it really any more catastrophic than a TBS-friendly re-edit of The Godfather, you down-and-dirty melon farmer? The original product is changed for the benefit of those who, for one reason or another, are not mature enough to handle it, but as long as it doesn’t affect the original, is there a problem?

Read the full article here.

What do you think? Is this unnecessary censorship or necessary evil? We’d love to hear your opinions on this debate.


One thought on “Unnecessary censorship or necessary evil?

  1. Of course it is censorship – and it is an unnecessary and potentially harmful compromise.

    Not mature enough to read it? Then, don’t read it – or find a proper teacher who can explain it, authentically, in a way that unveils Twain’s true intent.

    Mark Twain knew what he was doing – he used language in a nearly incomparable way, and his purpose was for us to be uncomfortable. He knew who would be reading the book and how the majority of them would react, and that was the point: look yourself in the face, readers, and reflect on what you are doing-then learn to change.

    We cannot explain the depth and honesty of this book by censoring the more disturbing aspects of it from readers – we need to face the presence of these aspects, discuss their purposes, and explain it with sensitivity and patience.

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