Othello has been dubbed “difficult” for some students to argue
William Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello has been brandished with content notice as students studying it are now warned to anticipate ‘racism’ throughout.
Scholars said the 420-year-old tragedy, about its most infamous non-white character, contains scenes that “may be difficult” for readers.
English literature students at the University of Winchester are now being warned to expect ‘racism’ in the play, in one aspect of a long list of published notices for historical texts.
These opinions argue that the 1603 play about a Moorish (possibly black) military commander, who is driven to commit murder by a fit of enraged jealousy, includes themes of “domestic violence”.
The enforcement of the advisories follows the growing prevalence of ‘trigger warnings’ in academic settings, meant to protect students from challenging materials, with critics saying it ‘infantilises’ young people.
The University of Winchester hit back, saying its guidelines are meant to ‘advise’ not ‘warn’ students, adding: ‘We don’t shy away from covering difficult topics, but we believe in informing students at advance, particularly in areas such as racial violence, sexual violence and suicide that students may have experienced themselves.
“Literature frequently strays into areas that people may find difficult to discuss, and our responses to different literary texts can often be deeply personal.”
Othello isn’t the only historical text that’s been slapped with a “woke” warning.
Winchester University students were also warned about the work of Edgar Allen Poe, the 1843 short story The Gold Bug being considered a “racially stereotypical depiction” of an African-American character.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, adopted a caveat, with students willing to expect “discriminatory language regarding sex and sexuality (homophobia)” throughout.
The university stressed the importance of warnings, saying “students respond best… when they come to a class knowing what to expect.”
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Academics across the industry have been openly critical of the move, with Professor Dennis Hayes of the University of Derby raising questions that universities are overprotective of students’ feelings.
He said: “It is time we had a trigger warning about trigger warnings.
“The idea that students need trigger warnings tells you what higher education institutions and student unions think of young people. They treat them as if they wouldn’t be able to cope. It is infantilizing. Students do not need to be shielded from ideas that they might find difficult or offensive.
“They can cope. But if they’re constantly treated like they can’t cope, they may come to believe it, as some students do now. It’s not caring, it’s contemptuous.
“It’s time to let go of this benevolent disregard for young people.”