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Mark Twain: A 'hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe'

Should classic novels be updated to suit modern tastes and mores?

An American publishing firm has touched off a controversy by announcing it will publish new editions of Mark Twain's novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in which the word "nigger" will be replaced with "slave."

Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who is working with NewSouth Books in Alabama to produce the new editions, says his goal is to publish versions of the novels that will be read by people who would otherwise avoid them because of the presence of the offending and polarizing word.

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Critics have swarmed Gribben, sending him harsh e-mails and criticizing him for sacrificing Twain's art in the name of political correctness. Twain scholars say the revised books won't be true to the period in which Twain was writing.

What do you think? Join an online discussion of the issue at 3 p.m. today with Queen's University English professor Rob Morrison, who has taught Twain and other authors whose works have prompted calls for censorship. He is familiar with the wrath of students offended by portrayals of women and visible minorities, but believes "the harder the book, the more important it is to teach it."

Morrison's latest book, The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey, was nominated for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the oldest literary prize in Britain.

Also taking part will be Martin Levin, editor of Globe Books and an expert on the work and life of Mark Twain. The discussion will be moderated by Peter Scowen, online editor of Globe Books and Globe Review.

Mobile phone users who want to follow the discussion should go to this link.







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