Earlier this month, Barnes and Noble became the latest institution to regret wading into in the war over literature and identity politics. For Black History Month, the company planned to publish classic works of literature in “Diverse Editions,” with new covers featuring nonwhite figures. One version of “Romeo and Juliet,” for instance, would be illustrated by a black couple kissing, even though Shakespeare’s characters are Italian. Within days, however, the company withdrew the plan in the face of online rancor over what one critic called “literary blackface.” While the covers were intended to make canonical works more…

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