Dear Dr. Gribben,
By now you are aware that your intention to publish a new edition of Huckleberry Finn, sans the word nigger has become a wildfire of opinion on the interwebz. Authors and scholars are taking to their own forums and speaking against your reasoning.
As an intermediate scholar of English Literature, I too am aghast at your decision, especially considering your qualifications as a Twain scholar.
I am not particularly attached to the word ‘nigger’ itself. I find it derogatory and unnecessary. Today. However, in the cultural, historical and literary context that it is used in the novel, I feel that you are severely remiss.
The novel’s (in the royal sense of ALL novels, not just HF itself) merit lies in the fact that it is social commentary in most all respects. Novels are products of their time, and serve as accounts of mores, culture, vernacular, politics and THE TIMES in general. Any well rounded lecture/course/series in history are accompanied by novels of the period. What you are doing here, seems to me to be akin to teaching a revisionist history. By changing it, you are misrepresenting the vernacular of the period, and encouraging any new readers to ignore a significant social and cultural difference.
I find your motives hard to fathom. To bring the novel to a wider audience? To get it allowed in schools? What, I ask you is the point of having it allowed in schools, if you are asking the schools to IGNORE THE SOCIAL CONTEXT AND INHERENT VALUE IT POSSESSES? Further, as a “scholar” is your job not to educate? Shouldn’t you then be speaking on behalf of the novel and its merits rather than truncating it? I find you to be a cannibal of your craft. I suspect that there might be a large sum of money involved in the number of copies this new “improved” edition of yours will sell. Publish or perish comes at a price, Dr. Gribben, and I am astonished that your price has been met and has allowed you to overlook the broader implications of your actions.
You are a teacher. A molder of minds. This scares me. I have no respect for those who take the easy way out. I suspect that Mr Twain is doing somersaults in his grave right now.
My parents tried to hid the vodka from me when I was in high school, Dr. Gribben. Damned if I didn’t find it anyway.
With Severe Vexation,
Jennifer N. Sciolino-Moore
Post Script: I welcome any reply you find time to return.