Cover image for Censors at work : how states shaped literature
Title:
Censors at work : how states shaped literature
Author:
Darnton, Robert, author.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, [2014]
Physical Description:
316 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Summary:
With his uncanny ability to spark life in the past, Robert Darnton re-creates three historical worlds in which censorship shaped literary expression in distinctive ways. In eighteenth-century France, censors, authors, and booksellers collaborated in making literature by navigating the intricate culture of royal privilege. Even as the king's censors outlawed works by Voltaire, Rousseau, and other celebrated Enlightenment writers, the head censor himself incubated Diderot's great Encyclopedie by hiding the banned project's papers in his Paris townhouse. Relationships at court trumped principle in the Old Regime. Shaken by the Sepoy uprising in 1857, the British Raj undertook a vast surveillance of every aspect of Indian life, including its literary output. Years later the outrage stirred by the British partition of Bengal led the Raj to put this knowledge to use. Seeking to suppress Indian publications that it deemed seditious, the British held hearings in which literary criticism led to prison sentences. Their efforts to meld imperial power and liberal principle fed a growing Indian opposition. In Communist East Germany, censorship was a component of the party program to engineer society. Behind the unmarked office doors of Ninety Clara-Zetkin Street in East Berlin, censors developed annual plans for literature in negotiation with high party officials and prominent writers. A system so pervasive that it lodged inside the authors' heads as self-censorship, it left visible scars in the nation's literature. By rooting censorship in the particulars of history, Darnton's revealing study enables us to think more clearly about efforts to control expression past and present.
Language:
English
Contents:
Bourbon France : privilege and repression -- Typography and legality -- The censor's point of view -- Everyday operations -- Problem cases -- Scandal and enlightenment -- The book police -- An author in the servants' quarters -- A distribution system, capillaries and arteries -- British India : liberalism and imperialism -- Amateur ethnography -- Melodrama -- Surveillance -- Sedition? -- Repression -- Courtroom hermeneutics -- Wandering minstrels -- The basic contradiction -- Communist East Germany : planning and persecution -- Native informants -- Inside the archives -- Relations with authors -- Author-editor negotiations -- Hard knocks -- A play : the show must not go on -- A novel : publish and pulp -- How censorship ended.
Added Corporate Author:
ISBN:
9780393242294
Format :
Book

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Kenmore Library Z657 .D26 2014 Adult Non-Fiction New Materials
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Summary

Summary

With his uncanny ability to spark life in the past, Robert Darnton re-creates three historical worlds in which censorship shaped literary expression in distinctive ways.

In eighteenth-century France, censors, authors, and booksellers collaborated in making literature by navigating the intricate culture of royal privilege. Even as the king's censors outlawed works by Voltaire, Rousseau, and other celebrated Enlightenment writers, the head censor himself incubated Diderot's great Encyclopedie by hiding the banned project's papers in his Paris townhouse. Relationships at court trumped principle in the Old Regime.

Shaken by the Sepoy uprising in 1857, the British Raj undertook a vast surveillance of every aspect of Indian life, including its literary output. Years later the outrage stirred by the British partition of Bengal led the Raj to put this knowledge to use. Seeking to suppress Indian publications that it deemed seditious, the British held hearings in which literary criticism led to prison sentences. Their efforts to meld imperial power and liberal principle fed a growing Indian opposition.

In Communist East Germany, censorship was a component of the party program to engineer society. Behind the unmarked office doors of Ninety Clara-Zetkin Street in East Berlin, censors developed annual plans for literature in negotiation with high party officials and prominent writers. A system so pervasive that it lodged inside the authors' heads as self-censorship, it left visible scars in the nation's literature.

By rooting censorship in the particulars of history, Darnton's revealing study enables us to think more clearly about efforts to control expression past and present.


Author Notes

Robert Darnton is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and the director of the University Library at Harvard University. His honors include a MacArthur Prize, the National Humanities Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and election to the French Legion of Honor. He is the author of The Great Cat Massacre and The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Twentieth-century philosopher Leo Strauss dismissed the censor as an ignoramus, incapable of interpreting serious literature. Darnton, however, finds the typical censor surprisingly shrewd in assessing the impact of literature. Indeed, Darnton's anthropological inquiry reveals unexpected nuances in the labors of censors in three quite different authoritarian regimes: eighteenth-century Bourbon France, nineteenth-century British India, and twentieth-century Stalinist East Germany. In all three of these settings, readers see censors acting cruelly: sending to prison a French servant whose novel evinces offensive irreverence toward the Crown; jailing an Indian social activist who exposes the cruelty of British overlords against India's native indigo growers; and locking in solitary confinement a German publisher who distributes a book transgressing Communist orthodoxy. But readers soon realize that censors usually act much more obliquely, drawing authors and publishers into a complex choreography of moves and countermoves, creating a negotiated space for literature defined by both the political calculations of the powerful and the cunning realism of the oppressed. A fascinating visit to the censor's office.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Darnton (The Case for Books), director of the University Library at Harvard, examines the complex relationship between central government censorship and authors, particularly how attempts to control communication and information have both improved and challenged the field of literature. He focuses on three distinct periods: 18th-century France, 19th-century India, and 20th-century East Germany. An intriguing story emerges as censors are presented as both a necessary evil and an authoritarian measure, working with authors as much as against them, and helping to-at least in the censor's mind-improve literary works even as they force them to conform to certain standards. Acting as voices of the state, as editors, even as coauthors, censors are sometimes subversive and sympathetic, sometimes arbitrary and unyielding. Darnton's argument is a mixed message, both upholding censors for their influence and bringing them to task for their part in enforcing stricter measures enacted by unforgiving governments. The writing is drily academic and the material often dense and abstract, as he struggles to assign a definition to the murky and wide-ranging concept of censorship. However, the story comes alive when Darnton interviews several former East German government censors to glean their experiences. While the material is sometimes arcane, it's still a thought-provoking look at a controversial subject. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

Darnton (Harvard Univ.) delineates censorship systems of three authoritarian regimes in three eras and linguistic worlds: 18th-century Bourbon France, 19th- and early-20th-century British India, and mid- to late-20th-century East Germany. He substantiates his study with careful archival work. He also took advantage of a remarkable research opportunity by interviewing some living censors: officials of the so-called Main Administration of Publishers and the Book Trade in East Germany. Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, they were still being paid to show up at their offices but had little to do. Darnton was able to check their descriptions against Ministry for State Security (Stasi) files subsequently released to the public. Significant conclusions about all three systems are that the censors were typically intellectuals who did not see themselves as censors, did much editorial work of merit, sometimes believed they were supporting freedom of speech and press, often negotiated with authors at great length, and could sympathize with authors and risk their own positions to help bring work to publication. All three systems depended on self-censorship and sought to hide intellectual control in euphemistic language and officious legal procedure. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. --Paul S. Spalding, Illinois College


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. 9
Introductionp. 13
Part 1 Bourbon France: Privilege and Repressionp. 21
Typography and Legalityp. 24
The Censor's Point of Viewp. 30
Everyday Operationsp. 37
Problem Casesp. 49
Scandal And Enlightenmentp. 54
The Book Policep. 59
An Author in the Servants' Quartersp. 61
A Distribution System: Capillaries and Arteriesp. 69
Part 2 British India: Liberalism and Imperialismp. 87
Amateur Ethnographyp. 89
Melodramap. 96
Surveillancep. 101
Sediton?p. 114
Repressionp. 120
Courtroom Hermeneuticsp. 126
Wandering Minstrelsp. 131
The Basic Contradictionp. 142
Part 3 Communist East Germany: Planning and Presecutionp. 145
Native Informantsp. 147
Inside the Archivesp. 164
Relations with Authorsp. 170
Author-Editor Negotiationsp. 182
Hard Knocksp. 191
A Play: The Show Must Not Go Onp. 203
A Novel: Publish and Pulpp. 209
How Censorship Endedp. 221
Conclusionp. 229
Acknowledgmentsp. 245
Notesp. 247
Illustration Creditsp. 294
Indexp. 295

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