Cancelling Dr. Seuss (& Editing Roald Dahl)
Professor Cathay Smith at the University of Montana
Venue: The Dorfman Room, St Peter’s College
Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced in March 2021 that it would no longer license or publish six of its children’s books because those books portrayed people in racist or culturally-stereotypical ways. The public reaction to Dr. Seuss’s decision was swift—and divided. Some criticized the decision as censorship or a product of “cancel culture.” Others applauded the decision as a long overdue reckoning with the problematic portrayals in these books. The recent backlash to the editing of Roald Dahl’s children’s books appeared to be a reprise of this dispute. While the decisions to cancel Dr. Seuss’s books and update Roald Dahl’s books generated much attention and controversy, it is in fact not uncommon for authors, copyright owners, and publishers to take actions to remedy racist, sexist, or other problematic content in their expressive works—especially in books, films, and other works intended for children.
Professor Smith’s project explores the different actions authors, copyright owners, and publishers have taken to remedy racist, sexist, or other problematic content in classic children’s works, and examines the moral questions and copyright law and policy implications that emerge from those actions.
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