Trigger warnings actually show “respect” for literature and are 'not just for snowflakes', a leading expert on English literature has said.
For many people, trigger warnings are a symptom of a society that is far too sensitive and immature.
Professor John Sutherland has picked apart the issue in his new book Triggered Literature: Cancellation, Stealth Censorship and Cultural Warfare and feels, while many are “done rather stupidly”, trigger warnings are still overall worthwhile.
“What is good about the idea of triggering is that literature itself can be dangerous but it can also change your life,” he said.
“It can do other things; it can be a wonderful narcotic if in fact you’re in trouble.
“You learn a lot from literature and it seems to me the notion of a trigger which honours the power of literature is a good thing.
“What’s a bad thing is cancellation, saying that literature is so bad… that we can’t read it."
'It’s done too often badly'
Trigger warnings are particularly common prior to films, plays or TV dramas that depict violence, sex or views - such as racism - that others will find offensive.
Those in favour of them say they are necessary to alert people to material they would rather avoid and Professor Sutherland feels overall they are a positive development.
“I think if done well - and it’s done too often badly - triggering is respect for what literature is,” he said.
Professor Sutherland also hit out at the use of 'sensitivity readers' to check literary works for perceived offensive content, stereotypes and bias before publication.
“I don’t like someone coming between me and what I read," he said.
"We should be our own sensitivity readers."
A history of cancel culture
Prior to trigger warnings, many films in Ireland were simply banned outright by the Official Censor of Films.
Cinema that depicted drunkenness, ‘stage Irishness’, anything anti-Catholic, dancing, kissing or violence were particularly unlikely to meet with the censor’s approval and it was only in 2008 that the role of Film Censor was changed to that of Director of Irish Film Classification.
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