To be or not to be forewarned is the question troubling dons teaching the classics of English literature to today’s snowflake students, as the Open University attaches trigger warnings to a host of classical English texts, including Hamlet. The Mail on Sunday has more.
Undergraduates are informed that reading William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, and Jane Austen’s Persuasion may trigger feelings of ‘distress’ and ‘trauma’.
Critics branded the warnings the “height of stupidity” and claimed that students could be deterred from discovering some of the world’s literary treasures.
Only Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice avoids the Open University’s trigger-warning list, obtained by the Mail on Sunday after a Freedom of Information request.
It states: “Apart from Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, the other set texts contain some material (including depictions of violence, assault or self-harm) that some students might find distressing.” Other works carrying warnings include the Shakespeare plays Julius Caesar and As You Like It, the Arabian Nights collection of stories and plays by French writer Moliere.
A briefing note for tutors states: “It is impossible to know how or why some students react negatively to potentially distressing content, as material that might be innocuous to some students might trigger traumatic memories in others, and vice versa.”