ERIC Number: ED366972
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1993-Nov
Reference Count: N/A
Blackness, Critics &"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
Smith, David Lionel
The concluding chapter of Tom Quirk's new book, "Coming to Grips with Huckleberry Finn," raises the question: "Is 'Huckleberry Finn' politically correct?" Quirk's book identifies acutely some of the fundamental issues regarding how racial attitudes and ideological agendas shape the way this great novel is read and taught. Critics have complained that interpreting Huck Finn as antiracist is reductive and ignores countervailing tendencies in the text. For Quirk this implies making Twain into a 1990s politically correct liberal, which he was not; and for Wayne Booth, author of the critical study called "The Company We Keep", it represents the even worse sin of dismissing the moral complexities of the novel in favor of self-satisfied rationalizing. Some critics have argued that the post-Reconstruction era was so violently racist that no more than a handful of Southerners wrote antiracist novels. In that sense, "Huckleberry Finn" is certainly not politically correct: the political correctness of Twain's era was, after all, strident racism. Only a superficial reading of black characters in "Huck Finn" as reflections of racial stereotypes can ignore how Twain undercuts such stereotypes and exposes their inadequacy. The conformity that goes along with political correctness in a given era may not always generate humanitarian sensibilities nor will literary critics' practice of political correctness in criticism or teaching necessarily lead to the kind of interactive change in which students and teachers are both in some way transformed. (SAM)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Huckleberry Finn; Politically Correct Communication; Twain (Mark)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English (83rd, Pittsburgh, PA, November 17-22, 1993).