University academics told that classic novels can hurt 'wellbeing'

University academics are told that classic books can hurt their ‘wellbeing’ and have been urged to stop reading ‘uncomfortable’ content

  • Queen Mary University of London has provided reading list for staff there
  • It includes novels to educate them on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Texts including Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird feature on the reading list 
  • Also comes with content warning from the human resources department  

They’re told to issue ‘trigger warnings’ to protect undergraduate students from some course content, now academics are being urged to stop reading ‘uncomfortable’ content to protect their own wellbeing.

Queen Mary University of London has provided a reading list for staff to educate them on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. 

It contains classic school texts, such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and children’s book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The list also comes with a ‘content warning’ from the human resources department that states: ‘Some of the following books and resources may have content and refer to sensitive issues that some individuals may find upsetting. 

‘If you feel uncomfortable with anything then please stop your activity, it is important that you look after your own wellbeing.’

Reading list contains classic school texts, such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and children’s book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Other literary works recommended to staff at the university include Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, Moby Dick by Herman Melville and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.

Staff are also directed towards a number of texts on ‘whiteness, white fragility and advantage.’ They include the 2017 bestseller Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and a blog called: The Sugarcoated Language of White Fragility.

The move follows many universities giving trigger warnings on humanities courses to undergraduates.

The Open University has issued trigger warnings for all but one of the texts studied in its ‘English Literature from Shakespeare to Austen’ module.

Meanwhile Warwick University has warned undergraduates that Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, depicts ‘the cruelty of nature’ in descriptions of dying sheep.

At Aberdeen University students have been told they can opt out of discussions on a module about Geoffrey Chaucer and medieval writing as the course ‘sometimes entails engagement with topics that you may find emotionally challenging.’

The move by Queen Mary’s has been criticised by Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, who said trigger warnings were ‘spreading like a virus.’

‘Having spread from students to lecturers there is now a very real danger that the ‘trigger warning’ virus will infect and harm many aspects of daily life,’ he said. ‘What next – trigger warnings for being a meat eater, a white male, a car driver? ‘Or is it already, too late?’

Meanwhile Warwick University has warned undergraduates that Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, depicts ‘the cruelty of nature’ in descriptions of dying sheep. Pictured: Thomas Hardy

His criticism was echoed by Frank Furedi, Emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, who said: ‘Academia’s obsession with insulating people from sensitive issues has led to a situation where the university is gradually transformed into a clinic where students and staff are viewed as potential patients.’

He added: ‘With the normalisation of trigger warnings, reading itself is increasingly treated as a health risk.’

A Queen Mary University of London spokeswoman described the guidance as ‘historic’ and said it would now be removed from the university’s website.

‘The guidance does not correspond with University policy,’ she said.

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