University warns students that Peter Pan novel is ‘emotionally challenging’

Peter Pan poster  (LMPC via Getty Images)
Peter Pan poster (LMPC via Getty Images)

A Scottish university has been ridiculed for suggesting to students of Peter Pan that they might find parts of the novel upsetting.

Aberdeen University has included it on a list of titles with warnings, claiming the children’s classic by author JM Barrie could be seen as “emotionally challenging”.

Other titles listed include Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The university does not expand on the reason for its warning, except to say that JM Barrie’s book contains “odd perspectives on gender but no objectionable material”.

The decision has been condemned by Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, a graduate of Aberdeen University.

He said: “I am baffled by any decision to warn students away from its study. Undergraduates should be sufficiently intellectually mature to understand and appreciate the tension between innocence and experience at the centre of Peter Pan.”

Fellow Tory, the MSP Stephen Kerr, who is the party’s shadow education secretary, echoed his concerns.

He added: “This kind of mollycoddling warning on JM Barrie’s magnificent story, and other basically innocuous children’s classics - especially when directed at students supposedly engaged in higher intellectual discussion - risks making the university look preposterous.”

However, a spokesman for the university said: “Similar to the way that content warnings are routinely applied by broadcasters, students are informed about the content of the texts.

“And as critically mature adults, they are empowered to make their own decision about which text to read.

“Our guidelines on content warnings were developed in collaboration with student representatives.

“And we have never had any complaints about them.

“On the contrary students have expressed their admiration for our approach.”