Applying Political Correctness Standards to Our Books Is a Big Mistake

Novelist and Literary Critic
Over a year ago

The topic of free speech has been tied to events on college campuses for decades — think Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley — and the last few years have seen a resurgence of college students doing what they do best: challenging the dominant social order.

Vocal challenges have risen against racial violence, cultural appropriation, certain political candidates, and more. But novelist Joshua Cohen thinks the impact of a college student's voice should be weighed against the real-world experiences of mature adults. Cohen particularly objects to the concern expressed over violent language in literature classes, and the debate over the value of so-called "trigger warnings" meant to warn students of language that could revive memories of past traumas.

"The whole point of the Greeks is that you never know what your trigger warning is because it’s your hamartia," says Cohen. "It’s your fatal flaw. If someone told you what your trigger waning was you probably wouldn’t end up, you know, killing your father and sleeping with your mother, you know."

Cohen's latest novel is Book of Numbers.