Re-writing literary history

Even if we have not read it, most of us are familiar with the premise of 1984. An oppressive government controls its citizens by manipulating the meaning of words, widespread surveillance, and rewriting history. Rewriting history is especially detrimental because it takes away the citizen’s ability to understand where he or she came from and learn from the past. It is not only important that a person know the events of the past, but also that he or she knows the cultural achievements of the past. 

In 2024, our progressive regime is working hard to make sure we only get a white-washed and sanitized view of literary history. Trent Laviano wrote in the American Mind about a “disturbing new trend” of “publishers altering and modifying various literary works to make them more consistent with contemporary attitudes.” Puffin Books is revising the language in Roald Dahl’s works to remove offensive language. 

There’s no way to contact dead authors to make sure they are okay with the changes to their works. Laviano points out how copyright law provides a little bit of protection, but current U.S. copyright law only protects a work for 70 years after publication. The Constitution prohibits perpetual copyright, and it is right to do so, but it may be time to extend the length of copyright protection. 

With the rise of e-readers like the Kindle, new editions of old books are constantly being published in the digital realm. The downside is that this allows publishers to alter works more easily and more often. Laviano states: “The rise of “virtual” books and films has now taken censorship to levels which he could never have imagined.” 

The task is on us to save the original versions of great literature so that they do not get replaced by the new progressive versions. 

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