10 January 2011
Professor Alan Gribben
Dear Professor Gribben,
I was shocked not by what you did to "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," but to discover that you are an English professor -- and often described as a leading Twain scholar -- at Auburn University.
The first responsibility of a literary scholar is to preserve, respect and protect the original text of a literary classic.
When the classic requires translation between languages. certain liberties in word choice are allowed and even necessary.
But Twain wrote "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in a historically immediate and universally comprehensible dialect of our American English. Every word he chose, he chose for a reason. He did not rely on copyright law to protect his writing. He relied on the demands and expectations of his appreciative readers, who would have been horrified and disgusted at the slightest text changes to his published writing which Twain himself did not make and authorize.
That these changes to "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" occur one century after the author's death -- one century after Twain lost his living ability to defend his text from attack and perverse change -- is frankly cowardly and ghoulish, and is certainly not characteristic of anyone daring to call himself a scholar.
A scholar protects both his author and his author's historical times, as the author scrupulously chronicled them.
Must I remind you that the shame and embarrassment of "nigger" in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" are there, by Twain's choice, to shock and shame his readers for all time as Twain chronicled the details and vocabulary of American life under slavery?
You have no right to pass yourself off as a scholar, you embarrass Auburn, and worst of all, you pervert the right of an author to speak clearly to his readers across the span of time.
Chesterfield, Massachusetts USA