As one of the greatest works in Britain’s literary canon, Nineteen Eighty-Four sounds a chilling warning about the dangers of censorship.

Now staff at the University of Northampton have issued a trigger warning for George Orwell’s novel on the grounds that it contains ‘explicit material’ which some students may find ‘offensive and upsetting’.

The Mail made the revelations following a Freedom of Information request on Sunday. It has angered critics who claim it is contrary to the theme of the book.

Now staff at the University of Northampton have issued a trigger warning for George Orwell¿s novel on the grounds that it contains ¿explicit material¿ which some students may find ¿offensive and upsetting¿

Now staff at the University of Northampton have issued a trigger warning for George Orwell’s novel on the grounds that it contains ‘explicit material’ which some students may find ‘offensive and upsetting’

Published in 1949, Orwell’s dystopian story – set in a totalitarian state which persecutes individual thinking – gave the world phrases such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘Newspeak’ and ‘thought police’.

Its plot centres on Winston Smith, a government employee who is arrested and tortured over an illicit love affair, but it also makes powerful points about what can happen to a society that doesn’t cherish academic freedoms or its own history.

However, it’s one of the many literary works flagged up by Northampton University students studying Identity Under Construction. They are warned that the module ‘addresses challenging issues related to violence, gender, sexuality, class, race, abuses, sexual abuse, political ideas and offensive language’.

In addition to Orwell’s book, academics identify several works in the module that have the potential to be ‘offensive and upsetting’ including the Samuel Beckett play Endgame, the graphic novel V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd and Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing The Cherry.

The seminal novel has regularly been adapted for stage and screen, including an acclaimed film starring John Hurt

This seminal book has been repeatedly adapted for screen and stage, with a film featuring John Hurt starring as the lead. 

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘There’s a certain irony that students are now being issued trigger warnings before reading Nineteen Eighty-Four. Our university campuses are fast becoming dystopian Big Brother zones where Newspeak is practised 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 homogenised society governed by a liberal elite “protecting” us from ideas that they believe are too extreme for our sensibilities.’

Orwell biographer David Taylor said: ‘I think 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.’

It has been adaptaed for screen and stage many times, even starring John Hurt in acclaimed films.

Northampton also sent warnings about other modules in its English degree program. Students are alerted, for example, that Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time includes ‘death of an animal, ableism and disability and offensive language’.

Northampton has also issued warnings over other modules on its English degree course

Northampton issued similar warnings regarding other modules of its English degree programme.

References to ‘gender, sexuality, abuse, violence, self-harm, suicide’ are also flagged up in Sally Rooney’s Normal People, which was adapted for a successful BBC series in 2020 starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal.

Northampton, which gained full university status only in 2005, is ranked 101st in a list of the UK’s 121 universities.

A spokesman said: ‘While it is not university policy, we may warn students of content in relation to violence, sexual violence, domestic abuse and suicide. We explain to candidates that they will have to read challenging texts as part of their recruitment process. Tutors reinforce this as students progress through the program of study.

‘We are aware some texts might be challenging for some students and have accounted for this when developing our courses.’

Earlier this month, The Mail on Sunday reported how Salford University students have been given a ‘trigger warning’ over Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.

English literature undergraduates are warned of ‘scenes and discussions of violence and sexual violence in several of the primary texts’ that they may find ‘distressing’.