Huckleberry Finn as idol and target: the functions of criticism in our time
If racially offensive epithets are banned on CNN air time and in the pages of USA Today, Jonathan Arac asks, shouldn't a fair hearing be given to those who protest their use in an eighth-grade classroom? Placing Mark Twain's comic masterpiece, Huckleberry Finn, in the context of long-standing American debates about race and culture, Jonathan Arac has written a work of scholarship in the service of citizenship. Huckleberry Finn, Arac points out, is America's most beloved book, assigned in schools more than any other work because it is considered both the "quintessential American novel" and "an important weapon against racism." But when some parents, students, and teachers have condemned the book's repeated use of the word "nigger," their protests have been vehemently and often snidely countered by cultural authorities, whether in the universities or in the New York Timesand the Washington Post. The paradoxical result, Arac contends, is to reinforce racist structures in our society and to make a sacred text of an important book that deserves thoughtful reading and criticism. Arac does not want to ban Huckleberry Finn, but to provide a context for fairer, fuller, and better-informed debates. Arac shows how, as the Cold War began and the Civil Rights movement took hold, the American critics Lionel Trilling, Henry Nash Smith, and Leo Marx transformed the public image of Twain's novel from a popular "boy's book" to a central document of American culture. Huck's feelings of brotherhood with the slave Jim, it was implied, represented all that was right and good in American culture and democracy. Drawing on writings by novelists, literary scholars, journalists, and historians, Arac revisits the era of the novel's setting in the 1840s, the period in the 1880s when Twain wrote and published the book, and the postWorld War II era, to refute many deeply entrenched assumptions about Huckleberry Finnand its place in cultural history, both nationally and globally. Encompassing discussion of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, Archie Bunker, James Baldwin, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, and Mark Fuhrman, Arac's book is trenchant, lucid, and timely.
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Huckleberry Finn as Idol and Target
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Huckleberry Finn as Idol and Target: The Functions of Criticism in Our Time
Limited preview - 1997
abolitionism African Americans Ameri American culture American literature antebellum argued argument authority berry Finn Black English book's called chapter 31 civil rights claim Clemens concern context contrast Cooper critical decades defined DeVoto dialect discussion editor Ellison emphasized essay feel fiction Fishkin Flaubert Gilder Henry Nash Smith historian Howells Huck Huck and Jim Huck's Huckle Huckleberry 1988 Huckleberry Finn human hypercanonization idolatry important irony issue language Leo Marx Liberal Imagination Lincoln Lionel Trilling literary narrative Mark Twain Marx Marx's means Mississippi Missouri Moby-Dick moral Negro Nigger Jim nineteenth century novel novelist offensive Partisan Review perspective political position praise problem protest race racial racism Ralph Ellison readers Reconstruction relation rhetoric Schlesinger scholars seems sense sentiment slave slaveholding slavery social South Southern speech Stowe's term tion Trilling's Uncle Tom's Cabin United values vernacular voice William Dean Howells Williams writing wrote