Trigger Warning Contest

Jun 02, 2014 |  NAS

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Trigger Warning Contest

Jun 02, 2014 | 


This spring, students at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Rutgers, Oberlin, and George Washington University have called for “trigger warnings” on syllabi and in courses that deal with potentially “triggering” material, the New York Times reports.

A trigger warning is an alert that what follows may activate trauma. The Times mentions that some people have suggested that classic books could benefit from trigger warnings, including “Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ (contains anti-Semitism) and Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ (addresses suicide).” A Rutgers student recommends that The Great Gatsby be tagged as possessing “a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence.”

One NYU professor has revised the syllabus for his U.S. history course to include trigger warnings on every segment. In the spirit of his satire and because in the future it appears that no one will make an intellectual endeavor without first ascertaining its triggering content, we thought that we should make a practical contribution. The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is keen on helping to inspire Americans to read good books. Lest the lack of accompanying trigger warnings discourage people from such reading, we are building a collection. But we need your help.

Of what should readers be warned before reading, say, Hamlet, The Republic, Anne of Green Gables, or The Wind in the Willows?

We invite readers young and old to submit trigger warnings for well-loved books. You can do so on Twitter, including NAS’s handle and the hashtag #triggerwarningfail.


The Iliad: warning – disturbing scene for those suffering sports injuries. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

Oedipus Rex: warning – prejudicial treatment of alternative family structures. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

Gulliver’s Travels: warning – size-ist. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

You may also make submissions on NAS’s Facebook page or as a comment below this post.

NAS will review submissions and on Friday (6/6/14) will announce the top 3 trigger warnings. The top 3 will each receive a free copy of NAS president Peter Wood’s book A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now (warning: not recommended for the apiphobic).


Image: Public Domain


| June 02, 2014 - 3:51 PM

A Clockwork Orange: Warning - this book contains numerous references to ultra-violence and twenty-to-one that might leave some readers feeling a bit poogly.


| June 02, 2014 - 4:38 PM

Harry Potter: warning - Atheism. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

Marilee Turscak

| June 02, 2014 - 5:06 PM


I am not sure whether the Atheism in Harry Potter comment is a joke, but it is worth pointing out that the entire series is saturated with scripture and grounds itself in Matthew 6:19, which is engraved on Harry Potter’s parents’ tombstone.

Joe Schulman

| June 02, 2014 - 5:24 PM

The Bible (Old and New Testaments): Depicts adultery, crucifixion, wars, betrayals, mass drowning, cruelty, seduction, child murder, and many other triggerwarning-worthy behaviors.

Louis Torres

| June 02, 2014 - 5:56 PM

Shane: NAMBLA warning.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Note: See, for example, the first five pages of Jack Schaefer’s classic novel. Though not written for children, it has long been widely taught at the Middle/Junior High School level.

Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts)

Editor, the Jack Schaefer Home Page:  (which one day will be edited, updated, and reformatted). 

See especially “Jack Schaefer, Teller of Tales” at A New Critical Perspective.


| June 03, 2014 - 10:51 AM

Don Quixote: warning unfavorable portrait of mental illness caused by reading.


| June 04, 2014 - 8:10 PM

“The Gulag Archipelago”—overblown horror stories of government excess may trigger McCarthyism in at-risk populations.
“The Crucible”—false accusations by mob of hysterical children may trigger feelings of insecurity on some campuses.
“Dreams from My Father”—manipulative, self-absorbed male narrator may trigger traumatic memories in victims of domestic abuse.

David Taylor, MD

| June 05, 2014 - 8:09 AM

The Hound of the Baskervilles: Trigger warning: Baskerville Effect.

Joe Richards

| June 05, 2014 - 11:22 AM

“1776” WARNING: Evil, capitalistic, paternalistic, misogynistic, homophobic, slaveholding, JudeoChristiancentric, Europeancentric, conservative, non-socialist, country is not crushed at the end of the book.


| June 05, 2014 - 11:50 AM

This post: Trigger warning: Contains trigger warnings
Harry Potter: Trigger warning: Snape kills Dumbledore.
Game of Thrones: Trigger warning: Everything
Romeo and Juliet: Trigger warnings: Suicide, patriarchy, heterosexism
Goodnight, Moon: Trigger warnings: Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Bob H

| June 05, 2014 - 12:24 PM

Entitlement: WARNING: May end suddenly; be prepared to change out of your pajamas

Richard F. Miller

| June 05, 2014 - 2:12 PM

“Harvard College Admission Brochure,” available in download.

Trigger Warnings: Actual attendance may produce immediate trauma via the transition from an idyllic at-home high school environment to instant immersion in a self-realization of rape culture, global racism, cultural appropriation, homophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, the privileges of whiteness, able-ness, maleness, high income-ness, or, conversely, unjust discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference, being differently abled, “flying while Muslim,”  or the shock of recognition that despite the promises, the rise of the oceans did not begin to slow nor did the planet begin to heal.

Those admitted are also warned that the psychosis appearing among social “science” faculty dealing with a reduction in budgets (while hard science budgets increase), has been known to spread to students.

Sam Downing

| June 05, 2014 - 2:46 PM

Moby Dick
Trigger warning ‘The one that got away’ ending may be jeopardized without an increase in yearly donation to Green Peace.

Frank L

| June 05, 2014 - 3:24 PM

Watership Down:  WARNING: Rabbits do not just reproduce and eat lettuce

A Tale of Two Cities:  WARNING:  seasoned European traveller still has problems clearing customs

The Time Machine: WARNING:  Where he goes, the roads arent’t the problem

Patrick McHargue

| June 05, 2014 - 3:32 PM

US Constitution: Too much freedom for those ‘other’ people.

Jessica R

| June 05, 2014 - 3:32 PM

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy: This work depicts a female character who is pressured into having sexual relations by her male partner, as well as a multiple murder-suicide. However, it discusses the challenges of family life caused by lack of access to birth control and thus belongs in the literary canon.


| June 05, 2014 - 4:35 PM

1776: Warning - favorable portrayal of masculine war culture and patriarchal slave-owners.

Henry Cox

| June 05, 2014 - 4:38 PM

Battleship Down

Male rabbits go searching for female rabbit mates. Anti-gay sentiment


| June 05, 2014 - 5:00 PM

Hard Choices:  warning—known to cause cancer in Canadian rats.

Kurt Schuler

| June 05, 2014 - 6:05 PM

The Wealth of Nations: warning - disparages tradesmen. (“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”) #triggerwarningfail @NASorg


| June 05, 2014 - 8:46 PM

“Dreams From My Father” by B. Hussein Obama

Warning: Will cause extreme feelings of buyer’s remorse and self-loathing when it is realized that every single word is horseshit.


| June 06, 2014 - 12:40 PM

Linguistics 101

Trigger Warning:

The poverty of stimulus of this course may trigger colorlessly greening ideas sleeping furiously


| June 06, 2014 - 12:55 PM

H.Clinton:  “Hard Choices”

Warning: Describes confusion over male organs by noted transgender enabler.


| June 06, 2014 - 1:06 PM

Make that: “tumescent male organs”.