As one of the greatest works in Britain’s literary canon, Nineteen Eighty-Four sounds a chilling warning about the dangers of censorship.
Now staff at the University of Northampton have issued a trigger warning for George Orwell’s novel on the grounds that it contains ‘explicit material’ which some students may find ‘offensive and upsetting’.
The advice, revealed following a Freedom of Information request by The Mail on Sunday, has infuriated critics, who say it runs contrary to the themes in the book.
Published in 1949, Orwell’s dystopian story – set in a totalitarian state which persecutes individual thinking – gave the world phrases such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘Newspeak’ and ‘thought police’.
Its plot centres on Winston Smith, a government employee who is arrested and tortured over an illicit love affair, but it also makes powerful points about what can happen to a society that doesn’t cherish academic freedoms or its own history.
Yet it is one of several literary works which have been flagged up to students at Northampton who are studying a module called Identity Under Construction. They are warned that the module ‘addresses challenging issues related to violence, gender, sexuality, class, race, abuses, sexual abuse, political ideas and offensive language’.
In addition to Orwell’s book, academics identify several works in the module that have the potential to be ‘offensive and upsetting’ including the Samuel Beckett play Endgame, the graphic novel V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd and Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing The Cherry.