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Teaching Problematic Literature: Books


There are many great works of fiction that, despite their massive influence on the literary canon, present or perpetuate problematic ideas. We cannot ignore the shortcomings of these books, but to remove or discard them would be to disregard their historic importance and artistic merit. Their failures must be addressed and discussed directly, and (whenever possible) countered with works that present similar ideas in better, more enlightened ways. We have compiled a list of problematic classics (left column), as well as examples that provide more nuanced discussions of similar topics (right column).

The works listed below are considered classic works of literature, despite the presence of racist, sexist, or other problematic content. Despite their flaws, these texts still have literary value, and must be taught with the proper context.

Books listed here discuss similar themes/ideas to books listed to the left, but without the problematic language or ideologies. They should not necessarily replace the classics, but might serve as beneficial complements or counterparts.