Moreover, part of literary criticism is understanding the historical context of a given work. Thus, when the egregiously offensive N-word appears in the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” is it too much to ask that readers reflect upon the word’s usage when Mark Twain wrote the book?
Within that understanding is a world of learning, from the history of race to the evolution of language. Instead, we are enslaved to “responsible pedagogical practice,” as one sympathetic faculty member put it. Thus, a draft guide at Oberlin College suggests flagging anything that could “disrupt a student’s learning” or “cause trauma”:
“Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism [transgender discrimination], ableism and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.”
I don’t know about you but I’m presently suffering acute trauma caused by being trapped in a world full of (you say it, not me). What is the -ism that refers to discrimination against relatively sane people who can read “The Merchant of Venice” without a therapist on speed dial? Normalism? But then, this would be offensive to people who are ...
The mind left free to wander happens upon a vacant building that used to house thousands of volumes. Now a museum, it was once called a library. Which is to say, a list of books that might be offensive to someone, or cause one to ponder the universe beyond one’s personal experience, would be so long as to make libraries obsolete. Most if not all of Shakespeare and the Greek tragedies would require so many labels they’d look like a Prius in Portland.
Lest I leave anyone unoffended, studying at the adult level, that is, in an institution of higher learning, isn’t supposed to make one feel good — or necessarily bad. It is to make one feel challenged, excited by new ideas, elevated by fresh insights, broadened by others’ perspectives.