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College students in UK get trigger warning about George Orwell's iconic '1984' — a novel that features 'thought police' and censorship as a primary theme

Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A college in the United Kingdom has issued a trigger warning to its students — pretty much all of whom are considered adults — about the content in George Orwell's iconic novel "1984."

Turns out the powers that be at the University of Northampton are saying the dystopian tome about totalitarianism contains "explicit material," which some students may find "offensive and upsetting," the Daily Mail reported.

One of the many ironies stemming from the school's trigger warning decision is that "1984" features "thought police," "Big Brother," and pervasive censorship among a number of dark forces controlling humanity.

What are the details?

Indeed, critics of the college's decision say it runs counter to the themes in the book, the Daily Mail added.

However, "1984" isn't the only work to come under Northampton's thumb in connection with the "Identity Under Construction" module which "addresses challenging issues related to violence, gender, sexuality, class, race, abuses, sexual abuse, political ideas, and offensive language," the outlet said.

Others getting flagged as potentially "offensive and upsetting" include the Samuel Beckett play "Endgame," the graphic novel "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore, and "Sexing the Cherry" by David Lloyd and Jeanette Winterson, the Daily Mail reported.

What did critics have to say?

"There’s a certain irony that students are now being issued trigger warnings before reading Nineteen Eighty-Four," member of Parliament Andrew Bridgen said, according to the outlet. "Our university campuses are fast becoming dystopian Big Brother zones where Newspeak is practiced to diminish the range of intellectual thought and cancel speakers who don’t conform to it. Too many of us — and nowhere is it more evident than our universities — have freely given up our rights to instead conform to a homogenized society governed by a liberal elite 'protecting' us from ideas that they believe are too extreme for our sensibilities."

Orwell biographer David Taylor added to the Daily Mail that "13-year-olds might find some scenes in the novel disturbing, but I don’t think anyone of undergraduate age is really shocked by a book any more."

What did the college have to say?

"While it is not university policy, we may warn students of content in relation to violence, sexual violence, domestic abuse, and suicide," a school spokesman told the Daily Mail. "In these circumstances we explain to applicants as part of the recruitment process that their course will include some challenging texts. This is reinforced by tutors as they progress through their program of studies."

Northampton also issued warnings in other modules on its English degree course, the outlet said, adding that the likes of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" was marked with a warning that it includes the "death of an animal, ableism, and disability, and offensive language."

Northampton is ranked 101st in a list of the UK’s 121 universities, the Daily Mail said.

Anything else?

The outlet added that earlier this month Salford University students were given a "trigger warning" over Charlotte Bronte’s "Jane Eyre" and Charles Dickens’ "Great Expectations" — and that English literature undergraduates were warned they might find "distressing ... scenes and discussions of violence and sexual violence in several of the primary texts."

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