The End of Literature


The rapid rise of “trigger warnings” is starting to impact literature curriculums. For instance, Columbia University students lobbied to include warnings on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a core text in Western Literature syllabi. Columbia refused to include warnings, but essentially capitulated by expunging the text from its curriculum entirely. Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita were considered as replacement texts, but neither made the final cut. As Politico explains, allowing trigger warnings to dictate what can be taught presents its own problem:

If a once-prestigious university like Columbia wants to hold itself hostage to the vicissitudes of underdeveloped undergraduate minds, they are welcome to do so. But allowing teenagers who know nothing of great literature the power to determine what should be taught as great literature seems ill-considered.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →