George Orwell’s iconic dystopian novel, “1984” was published in 1949 and has been hailed as one of the most impressive books on censorship, persecution of individual thinking, and total opinion control.
The University of Northampton in the UK has slapped a trigger warning on “1984” by George Orwell, arguing that the novel contains some “explicit material” which may be deemed by some students as “offensive and upsetting”, the Daily Mail has reported.
The university’s move was unveiled by the outlet via a Freedom of Information request. According to the report, the novel has been flagged for those students studying a module called Identity Under Construction. These students are reportedly warned that the module “addresses challenging issues related to violence, gender, sexuality, class, race, abuses, sexual abuse, political ideas, and offensive language”.
Orwell’s “1984” is not the only book with the trigger warning, as it is joined by the Samuel Beckett play “Endgame”, the graphic novel “V For Vendetta” by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, along with Jeanette Winterson’s “Sexing The Cherry”.
The decision to place “1984” under the trigger warning has sparked ire among some people who have already blasted the move as “wokeism”.
Andrew R. Timming, a professor in the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, denounced the move, saying that the university would have “failed in its mission” should a trigger warning prevent “even one student from reading 1984”.
Among those criticising the move was Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who said there was “a certain irony” in how the novel about the dangers of censorship receives trigger warnings.
“There’s something very Big Brother about it”, he noted.
A spokesperson for the university told the Daily Mail that by placing trigger warnings on certain books, the university is trying to “explain to applicants as part of the recruitment process that their course will include some challenging texts”.
“While it is not university policy, we may warn students of content in relation to violence, sexual violence, domestic abuse, and suicide”, the spokesperson explained. “We are aware some texts might be challenging for some students and have accounted for this when developing our courses”.
Orwell biographer David Taylor, while acknowledging that “1984” might not be suitable for everyone, said that he hardly believes that university students might be shocked.
“I think 13-year-olds might find some scenes in the novel disturbing, but I don’t think anyone of undergraduate age is really shocked by a book any more”, he said as cited by the Daily Mail.
Now a classic example of dystopian political fiction, “1984” was included on the list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005 by Time magazine.
Released in 1949, the book was translated into 65 languages by 1989 – more than any other English novel at the time. “Big Brother”, “thought police”, “Newspeak”, and many other concepts offered by Orwell in the novel have become common terms to condemn totalitarism and censorship.