On Wednesday, Sept. 29th the first of the Twain Lectures took place on the second floor of the library. The lecture, entitled “Hushing Huck: The Banning of Huckleberry Finn,” was given by English Professor Ben Click. The lecture was filled with students, faculty, and community members who came out to discuss the banning of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
It was so crowded that there was a shortage of seating, and more chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the large number of people in attendance. The lecture began with a word from Library Director Celia Rabinowitz, who discussed the relationship between the library and the banning of Huckleberry Finn, which may not be as obvious as it appears.
“One of the reasons we decided to have the lecture here [at the library] was because it is banned books week,” said Rabinowitz. “[Banned Book Week] always happens in the last week of September and asks people to examine the books that have been banned and challenged.”
After Rabinowitz explained the importance of Banned Book Week, Pamela Mann introduced Click citing him as the “first St. Mary’s Library Celebrity,” in reference to Click’s presence on the posters advertising the event.
Professor Click began the lecture by discussing the difference between banning and challenging and how there are times when this can be a good thing for the popularity of the novel. “Banning a book is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Click. Case in point, as Click discussed, is that Huckleberry Finn has never gone out of print since its original publication date and has been translated into 53 languages.
Huckleberry Finn, as Click discussed, had been banned in many locations for decades, even before it was published. Click discussed several examples of instances when the book was banned for one reason or another.
Click talked about one example: “As the book neared it’s 100th anniversary it was banned in several places, but in Fairfax County in 1982 the principal of the Mark Twain International School – on the advice of the Human Rights Committee – removed the book from the required reading. Twain would have loved the irony.”