How Students React to Violence

by Kelly O’Connor-Salomon

One of the books in a Popular Fiction class I am teaching is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is read after A Thousand Splendid Suns. This class, more than in the past, students have responded negatively toward Tattoo, complaining that the violence is over the top and gratuitous. At least one student dropped the class because she considered the reading list “unclean.” The other books are No Country for Old Men and The Hunger Games.

Tattoo is violent–there is little doubt about it. I actually hesitated about reading the book for a long time–it’s popularity was what convinced me, and the violence didn’t really seem that much worse than other things I had read. What I find interesting is that students did not seem equally upset by the violence in Suns. There, also, women are raped and are abused by men in horrible ways. But it is also non-Western violence, for lack of  better way to describe it, and I wonder if that is the difference. Students are sympathetic to the plight of Mariam and Laila, but that is happening “over there.” Those kinds of things don’t happen here, they may tell themselves. These women need to be fought for, but there is a remove–they are not us.

However, Lisbeth and Harriet are Western women living in a country where women are supposed to be empowered and free. While the book is set in Sweden, it could be here in the United States. Maybe that is what gets to them. That there really isn’t a remove–violence can happen anywhere and to anyone. But they don’t make that connection. They simply leap to the idea that instead of raising a true issue that concerns all women, Tattoo is too violent. It becomes a reason to dislike the text.

Students not liking books is not new. Anyone who has taught literature has tried to teach the importance of going beyond likes and dislikes–that one can respect the literary merits of something even if it isn’t popular. That there is a reason it is on the syllabus. But that seems to be a more difficult bridge to build these days. And when a text is a challenge, that gets even harder. Is there too much violence in popular culture today? Yes. Does that mean all of it is bad? No. I have to wonder if the students bothered by Tattoo are also bothered by the Saw films.

It will be interesting to see if they are equally bothered by the remaining books, which also have their share of violence.



Short URL:

Leave a Reply

Keep in Touch With AdjunctNation

Graphic Graphic Graphic


Want to see your advertisement on Click here.


Want to see your advertisement on Click here.


Want to see your advertisement on Click here.



From the Archive

  • Paychecks Come Late (Again) & PTers Launch Public Food Drive In Response

    Food drives have become increasingly common in the aftermath of the Great Recession. But the drive launched at Kalamazoo Valley Community College January 11th is a little different: People are bringing in food and gift cards, not to help out strangers in need, but their coworkers. “The full-time faculty have been wonderful. They were the […]

  • Are You Disciplined?

    by Andi O’Conor DISCIPLINED MINDS is a radical, disturbing, and provocative look at professional life. It offers a profound analysis of the personal struggles for identity and meaning in the lives of today’s 21 million professionals. The book will shake up readers, particularly faculty members, graduate students, and others who participate in academic life. This book […]

  • Taking the Show on the Road

    by Susan M. Gorga and Jeffrey J. Mondak IN 1997 AND 1998, we team-taught political science courses at Babes-Bolyai University, in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The students all had studied English, but their proficiency was varied. We were cognizant of the problems students would have understanding instruction in English, but we were unable to teach in Romanian. To […]

  • Documentary Film About Higher Ed “Starving the Beast” Has Many Villains (and Few Heroes)

    If, like me, you are anxious about the condition of public universities, “Starving the Beast” will only heighten your concerns. The film is a compelling account of how special interests collude to weaken public universities.

  • Education Union Comparison Chart: Which Education Union Fits Your Group Best?

    Adjunct Membership Growth Gains Benefits Dues AFT LARGEST ADJUNCT MEMBER-SHIP:   36,000 Membership among part-time and nontenure track faculty has grown by 6500 in the past 5 years and has expanded from community colleges to four-year colleges. BIGGEST GAINS:   Has been working on many fronts, including Campus Equity Week. Here are other examples: Washington–adjuncts […]


Want to see your advertisement on Click here.


Want to see your advertisement on Click here.

Recently Commented

  • Rick: If your looking for non-academic jobs, or “menial” jobs do not even mention your graduate...
  • AdjunctNation Editorial Team: @Jeffr thanks for pointing out the distinction.
  • Jeffr: Note that adjunct faculty are considered to be on a “term” basis and receives no protection except...
  • Scott: I believe Sami is correct in that this no reasonable assurance language will allow adjuncts continuing access...
  • Nancy West-Diangelo: It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to listen critically. If the point of the work we...