A British university has issued a “trigger warning” on Mark Twain’s literary classic “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” because of supposed “problematic” violence and language.
Exeter University warned students that the 1884 novel — widely deemed one of the great American novels — is “classic but contentious,” according to The Times of London.
Twain’s masterpiece “is problematic in a number of ways, not least because of Huck’s use of the N-word throughout the novel,” students in the American literature module were warned.
“Please be aware that this novel also features scenes of murder, violence and child abuse,” the warning reportedly adds.
Twain’s tale of 13-year-old Huck Finn’s travels down the Mississippi River with an escaped slave named Jim has for generations been taught as a condemnation of the racist values of the time.
“It’s the best book we’ve had,” Ernest Hemingway once said of it. “All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before.”
It is also a pioneering work for Twain’s use of colloquial dialect, making it a timeless snapshot of the Antebellum South.
However, his reliance on the era’s racially charged language — including the N-word, which appears 219 times — has long sparked controversy.
Numerous US schools have also issued warnings or even banned the book — and in 2011, it was even rewritten to replace the troubling (but era-accurate) language.
However, scholars have long noted that students’ horror at the language and racist attitudes of that era is exactly why novels like Twain’s are so important.
“They need to be made uncomfortable,” writer Antonio Aiello, who for 12 years was the editorial director for PEN America, previously told MTV of attempts to “whitewash” history by banning Twain’s novel.
“Instead of taking this as a teachable moment to talk about where words come from and what they mean… it’s shocking that teachers wouldn’t take that opportunity. History is not going to go away.”
Exeter University declined to comment, the UK Times said.