Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature

Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature

by Robert Darnton


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, May 30


“Splendid. . . . [Darnton gives] us vivid, hard-won detail, illuminating narrative, and subtle, original insight.”—Timothy Garton Ash, New York Review of Books

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393351804
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/21/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,293,739
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 9

Introduction 13

Part 1 Bourbon France: Privilege and Repression 21

Typography and Legality 24

The Censor's Point of View 30

Everyday Operations 37

Problem Cases 49

Scandal And Enlightenment 54

The Book Police 59

An Author in the Servants' Quarters 61

A Distribution System: Capillaries and Arteries 69

Part 2 British India: Liberalism and Imperialism 87

Amateur Ethnography 89

Melodrama 96

Surveillance 101

Sediton? 114

Repression 120

Courtroom Hermeneutics 126

Wandering Minstrels 131

The Basic Contradiction 142

Part 3 Communist East Germany: Planning and Presecution 145

Native Informants 147

Inside the Archives 164

Relations with Authors 170

Author-Editor Negotiations 182

Hard Knocks 191

A Play: The Show Must Not Go On 203

A Novel: Publish and Pulp 209

How Censorship Ended 221

Conclusion 229

Acknowledgments 245

Notes 247

Illustration Credits 294

Index 295

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews