Friday, May 23, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"Essentially literature is full of every kind of upsetting, provoking, awkward-making, saddening, embarrassing stuff you could ever think of. That's what it is like. [And] the time you would start labelling it with warnings – it seems to me that that way madness lies. What do you decide is upsetting, and what actions does it leave you open to [if you get it wrong]? It's treating people as if they are babies, and studying literature is for grownups at university. You might as well put a label on English literature saying: warning – bad stuff happens here."

John Mullan on the idea of "trigger warnings" for books, advising readers of potentially upsetting passages. He's right - it's patronising and indeed a first step on the path towards censorship. It surely can't be long before copies of American Psycho are carrying a "Warning: contains scenes of mild peril" sticker...

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