“Content warnings enable students to make informed choices.”
Can you imagine thinking Hemingway is too triggering?
The College Fix reports:
University puts trigger warning on Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’: ‘graphic fishing scenes’
A university in a prominent Scottish fishing sector cautions its students that a classic Ernest Hemingway novel contains “graphic fishing scenes” that may upset some readers.
Students at the University of the Highlands and Islands are informed prior to their reading assignment that “The Old Man and the Sea” includes descriptive fishing passages, reported the Daily Mail, which obtained a copy of the warning through a public records act request.
University of the Highlands declined The College Fix’s request for comment, but a university spokesman told the Mail: “Content warnings enable students to make informed choices.”
Several professors told The Fix that a trigger warning for the novella, which earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1953, is unnecessary.
“Having a trigger warning for ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ for ‘graphic fishing scenes’ borders on the absurd,” said English Professor John Netland, vice president for academic affairs at the Tennessee-based Union University.
The novel centers on the fisherman Santiago, who hooks a large marlin but is unable to fully reel it in and struggles with keeping it on the line for many days, enduring pain and exhaustion and, over time, learning to respect the beast and have sympathy for it. Ultimately, he kills it with a harpoon, but is then forced to defend his catch from sharks that eat away at the corpse.
Some scholars and fans of the book interpret Santiago’s experience as a metaphor for man pitied against the forces of nature, especially in light of Hemingway’s own personal struggles with addiction and depression.
“Great literature will challenge its readers, and students who have experienced genuine trauma may struggle with various books,” Netland told The Fix via email. “Excellent teachers can do better than to issue trigger warnings to help struggling students navigate their way through challenging content.
“Out of that struggle, students can experience genuine personal growth, but only if there is respect for both the student and the literary work. Trigger warnings respect neither,” Netland said.
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