Rewriting classic literature is pure floccinaucinihilipilification
If nothing else, the headline surely caught your eye. What is surely to disappoint is its meaning. Here is perhaps one of the longest words in the English language and possibly one of the hardest to pronounce. And yet it’s meaning is onomatopoeic. The word refers to participating in an act or habit that is worthless.
Thankfully, however, the word is perfect to describe the efforts to rewrite literature that offends, is difficult, triggers a bad memory, or is otherwise problematic as our new Pecksniff’s define it. Apparently, young people today cannot be bothered with hard words they might have to look up, arabesque plots, or potentially offensive storylines.
Woke culture et al wants to rewrite and redo all of it. Nothing is sacred. The Bible must be rewritten or removed to block its offending patriarchal overtones. Shakespeare must be either rewritten or removed for his incessant and devilish take on women. Milton much be either rewritten or removed to shade us from his relentless bias against Satan and blindness to oppressive Christianity. And so on and on.
Unfortunately, these revisions have been going on for years now. But it did not stop with just the classics, and no one watching carefully would have guessed that it would. Only this week, The Guardian wrote of the plans underway at Puffin to rewrite Ronald Dahl’s books for today’s “sensitive readers.” Augustus Gloop is no long “fat” but enormous. Mrs. Twits is no longer ugly and beastly, just beastly.
Hundreds of passages have been rewritten, and even text never written by Dahl, added. For example, in the passages where the witches are described as bald beneath their wigs, Puffin editors have added that there are many other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Whew. Heaven — oops, the celestial — forbid that children might think ill of witches.
James and the Giant Peach has also had an inclusive makeover, as has Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the latter, the Oompa Loompas are not small men but small people. Whew! So glad children won’t be triggered by that!
Rest assured the overseers are watching carefully. Alexandra Strick, a founder of Inclusive Minds, says her organization is working hard to ensure “authentic representation…with those who have a lived experience of any facet of diversity.” Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief that those facets are getting ample diversification!
Just you wait until she gets hold of the Gettysburg Address: “A bunch of years ago and seven more [not everyone can do math, you see] our non-childbearing persons brought forth a new oppressor that ignored equity and determined that every person theoretically — but a BIG fail — would be equal.” See, isn’t that much better?
It doesn’t matter that we may be doomed to repeat history because we have ignored it. What matters is that we must rewrite history to make it herstory, or some other story. We must do away with everything that reeks of anything remotely interesting or the least bit intellectually challenging.
Certainly, we have not heeded the wise warning from W.E.H. Lecky, the 19th century rationalist, who warned us not to judge past mores by the those of a current one. Our new approach makes certain we’ll never again notice that we are dwarfs — er, short people — standing on the shoulder of giants — I mean really, really tall persons.
It’s unlikely this story has a happy ending unless those of us who care about our culture are willing to defend it. Wishing won’t make it so, however. We can sit idly by and watch as we lose the grandeur of Homer, the majesty of Dryden, and startling brilliance of Austen to the dunderhead revisionists everywhere, or we can stand stridently in opposition.
If we do not, all these onslaughts against who and what we are will be an exercise in floccinaucinihilipilification—utter worthlessness by rejecting our history’s gold for the ormolu of modernism.