Trigger Happy

Protecting delicate flowers from the dark, scary world of literature.

Trigger Happy

In a desperate bid to keep people reading, there has been a flurry of studies that show how reading fiction makes us more empathetic and less racist, and improves brain function. Luckily, academics know better: Literature is actually a sinister attempt to lure us into a minefield of trauma and fear, bruising and shocking our impressionable youth with the panoply of evil, base, and brutal aspects of human nature.

In deference to the delicate sensibilities of our children — who, after all, are the leaders of tomorrow — English departments in prestigious universities throughout the land now include trigger warnings on required reading.

Looking back on it, I am outraged at the things that I was exposed to during my academic years! It’s a wonder that I made into adulthood with my capacity to feel joy intact.

Well, I’m not going to stand for it anymore! In the hopes of saving young minds from the abuse and horrors that I had to endure as a student, I have compiled a list of trigger warnings for the pernicious, dangerous literature that one might be forced to read as an undergraduate in pursuit of a degree.

Antigone: If you’ve ever tried to right a wrong, only to be punished for it, this play could get the resentment churning all over again.

The Old Testament: Everyone’s excused from reading this one. Trust me.

The Canterbury Tales: This work could dredge up repellent flashbacks to that cruise or group tour you went on where annoying fellow travelers tried to one up each others’ stories of past cruises or tours.

King Lear: Antagonistic relationship with your family members? Do yourself a favor and leave this one on the shelf.

Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded: Anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace should NOT read this book.

Pride and Prejudice: Looking for a suitable marriage partner can be dirty, dangerous business, and this book is extremely explicit about the pitfalls, humiliations, and horrors that afflict singletons. Be warned.

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale: Cetologists, cetophiles, and PETA members will want to be excused from reading this extremely graphic book on the hunting and butchering of our fellow mammals.

Great Expectations: Been jilted? Yeah, then you might want to skip this one.

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life: Have you ever been dazzled by someone, only to find that the person’s feet are made of clay, but by then it’s too late, and you spend years being oppressed and dominated by that person? Read this book at your own peril.

The Ambassadors: If you sometimes entertain the notion that you have lived your whole life up until now under mistaken assumptions and meaningless principles, spare yourself this novel.

The Sound and the Fury: Does it make you feel bad to have to work hard at reading? Take a pass!


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