Lest you think this is something promoted by silly students but resisted by clever professors, Columbia University last week conceded the point: “Metamorphoses,” that classic of Western literature, has been purged. No trigger warnings, sure, but no more Ovid.
In its place, Columbia has selected Toni Morrison’s 1977 novel “Song Of Solomon,” which has frequently been the target of bans in the United States by prissy, anti-intellectual religious types, adding a touch of diversity to the Great Books canon. But Morrison’s more famous novel “Beloved” was not chosen, probably because it’s full of vivid scenes of rape and racism that could be “problematic” for some students.
Columbia apparently had considered adding “Lolita,” Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece of Western literature, to the “Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy” course, though it, too, failed to make the final cut. And again, one could reasonably assume that Columbia wasn’t interested in traumatizing readers with the pedophilic effusions of Humbert Humbert, whose sexual compulsions are for a prepubescent girl whom he calls — trigger warning — the “light of his life, the fire of his loins.”
European intelligentsia used to ruthlessly mock this type of censoriousness masquerading as sensitivity.