Controversy Between the Covers


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  • “ Jack Martin’s obituary: In the 1960's Jack took on a battle of another type when the mayor of Corning sought to limit the freedom of local libraries and readers by banning Henry Miller's newly-published novel "Tropic of Cancer." Jack borrowed a copy of the book from a friend and announced that the College library had a copy in its collection. He was hounded by the local press and threatened with arrest, but then he received a call from Arthur Houghton, who had heard the news, and hired the lawyers of the New York Public Library to defend him. Arthur arranged for a Corning Glass plane to fly Jack to New York City for strategy discussions. When the Mayor learned of the forces that he was up against, he quickly backed down.”
  • Controversy Between the Covers

    1. 1. Controversy Between the Covers: A History of Banned and Challenged Books Photo by Yusuke Suzuki, found at on September 20, 2012 EHW, 10/3/2012
    2. 2. Ancient RootsA source of political control Before me, no history!Focused on the writers and thinkers themselves, not theirworksChurch as censor
    3. 3. Victorian England (1837-1901)What changed?Victorian moralityIncreased literacyPrinting and publiclibrariesRole of Evangelicals“informal” censorsLegal censorship appliedonly to “obscenepublications,” whichincluded birth control
    4. 4. In the United States: The Comstock Act (1873) The Tariff Act of 1842 allowed Customs toseize and destroy obscene books entering thecountry, but…Violating the Comstock Act = + Emphasis on “obscene literature and art,”but a substantial focus on abortionists, sexeducators, and birth-control advocates.Today – link to Section 507 of the 1996Telecommunications Act ! Anthony Comstock from American Heritage, October 1973
    5. 5. Court cases – “I know it when I see it!”TextbooksResearch Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970) recommended loosening the legal restrictions on pornography, while the Meese Commission (1986) pointed to causal relationships between pornography, violence and organized crime!A challenge = publicity
    6. 6. Libraries and Challenges“The American Library Association promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom toexpress ones opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox orunpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpointsto all who wish to read them.”Challenges can be initiated by anyone – most commonly by parents. Based on: - Offensive language -Violence - Age-appropriateness - Sexual content - Occult references Selection vs. censorship
    7. 7.  “Tropic of Cancer” was first published in 1934 by the Obelisk Press in Paris, France, but this edition was banned in the United States Its publication in 1961 in the U.S. by Grove Press led to obscenity trials that tested American laws on pornography in the early 1960s. Over 60 obscenity lawsuits in over 21 states were brought against booksellers that sold it In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the book non-obscene. It is widely regarded as an important masterpiece of 20th century literature.
    8. 8. "not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.“Pennsylvania Supreme Court JusticeMichael Musmanno
    9. 9. Video by the Crash Pad Puppets, found on YouTube at“A truly great library has something in it to offend everyone.”
    10. 10. SourcesAltick, Richard D. Victorian People and Ideas. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973.Andrist, Ralph K. “Paladin of Purity.” American Heritage 24.6 (October 1973): 4+.American Library Association website:, visited 26 Sept. 2012."Banned Books And Their Universal Availability." Journal Of Access Services 5.4 (2008): 597-609. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.Chartrand, Harry Hillman. "Christianity, Copyright, and Censorship in English-Speaking Cultures." Journal of Arts Management, Law & Society 22.3 (1992): 253. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 19 Sept. 2012.LaMay, Craig L. “America’s Censor: Anthony Comstock and Free Speech.” Communications and the Law 19.3 (Sept. 1997): 1-59. Academic OneFile. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.Noble, William. Bookbanning in America. Middlebury, VT: Paul S. Eriksson, 1990.“Read No Evil.” Time Magazine (May 27, 1946): 29-30.Scales, Pat. "What Makes A Good Banned Book?." Horn Book Magazine 85.5 (2009): 533. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 24 Sept. 2012.