#BannedBooksWeek 2017: Jane Eyre

  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is an excellent classic to take a look at during Banned Books Week (September 24 – 30). Originally published in 1847, Jane Eyre was written at a time when women rarely played a large public role, with restrictions in place for universities, government, and most careers. The women’s suffrage movement which won women the right to vote wouldn’t take off until decades later. Brontë wrote the work under the gender-neutral pseudonym of Currer Bell to avoid additional criticism because of her sex. Initially published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, Brontë’s work presented itself as a true story advocating radical feminist ideals and advertising individual expression. These were highly controversial opinions for the mid-nineteenth century, which resulted in the novel being banned in various locations, and cited as dissentious, anti-Christian literature unfit for young ladies. 

  Jane Eyre provides a first-person narrative of the life of a fictional young woman, Jane Eyre, in northern England in the early 1800s. The book begins by describing Jane’s unhappy childhood and stressing her rebellious, outspoken nature. Orphaned from a young age, Jane is brought up by her spiteful aunt, and is sent off to boarding school at age ten. After eight years at school, Jane’s adventurous spirit remains unquenched, and she begins to seek work elsewhere as a governess. Several months later, Jane begins working as a governess for Adele Varens, a young French girl under the charge of the mysterious Mr. Rochester. Rochester and Jane spend time together, often discoursing on a variety of intellectual topics, and each develop feelings for the other. As the novel is written as a narrative, it focuses solely on Jane’s feelings and her brazen approach to love, which is considerably out of place for the time. Rochester and Jane soon plan to be married, but the wedding is called off when it is revealed that Rochester is already married. Jane, proud of her morals, cannot bear to be in unlawful matrimony and flees, endeavoring to make her own way in the world once more. After some time, and a  marriage proposal by another man, Jane begins to pine for Rochester once more. Upon her return, she finds Rochester’s wife dead and him half-crippled, and pledges herself to him with the two eventually marrying.

  For 1847, Jane Eyre presented a strikingly radical opinion on how young women could behave. Jane’s ability to make decisions independent of what everyone else was telling her and stick to her moral convictions cause her to stand out as an impressive fictional role model even today. While progressive for its time, Bronte’s work helped influence future feminist movements and the emergence of more women authors. I believe that Jane Eyre is still relevant and worth reading today – and certainly should never be banned. Jane Eyre showcases individual thought and active questioning, as well as maintaining one’s morals and coming to understand love. This first edition of this powerful book is now on display in Lindeman Library as part of the exhibition: Jane Austen and the Rise of Feminism.  Jane Eyre is also available at Lehigh in older editions held by Special Collections, and in newer editions on Linderman Library’s third floor.

References

  • http://standardissuemagazine.com/arts/jane-eyre-feminist-icon/
  • https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/how-jane-eyre-created-the-modern-self/460461/

 

#BannedBooksWeek 2017: The Lord of the Rings

One of the most influential fantasy fiction stories of all time, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has taken millions of people on the perilous journey through Middle-earth. However, to some, this journey is just too perilous to allow others to read. The books, along with The Hobbit, have since been banned a number of times in various schools and churches with reasons ranging from depictions of smoking to outright satanism.

In a number of schools, The Lord of the Rings has been banned for the frequent use of a pipe by various characters in the book. The National Health Service in Plymouth, England claimed that children were more likely to start smoking because of books and films like The Lord of the Rings. However, the trilogy has seen much harsher criticisms for darker reasons.

All three volumes of The Lord of the Rings

Catholic and Christian communities in particular have had a history of denouncing the books saying they promote witchcraft. The references to darkness and sorcery did not sit well with churches and religious schools. Somewhat recently, a group in the Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico set fire to a pile of books that included Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. They claimed the books to be evil and said they were destroying people with their satanic ways.

Ironically, J.R.R. Tolkien was devoutly religious, having converted to Roman Catholicism at a very young age. His Biblical inspiration is often said to show up in characters like Gandalf and in the general story of light versus darkness. An even stronger example, Tolkien’s other work about the world of Middle-earth, The Silmarillion, has numerous similarities to the book of Genesis.

Map of Middle-earth located on the back cover of the library’s 1993 edition of The Lord of the Rings

Despite the banning and disputes The Lord of the Rings has suffered, it continues to excite people of all ages. Whether you believe Tolkien promotes witchcraft, references Christianity, or merely creates a magic world, he has certainly influenced the world with his stories.

 

References:

http://world.edu/banned-book-awareness-lord-rings-jrr-tolkien/

http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31766

#BannedBooksWeek 2017: The United States v. One Book Called Ulysses

Today, James Joyce’s Ulysses is considered a classic novel with a secure place in the Western literary canon. English professors and scholars around the world praise the novel’s stream-of-consciousness technique and incredible depth. However, the novel was not always readily available to the public, being banned soon after its publication. In fact, when Joyce decided to publish the novel, he could not find an English publisher that would work with him. A French publisher, Shakespeare and Company, finally agreed to publish the novel and it was available in 1922. Despite this successful publication, several English speaking countries of the world banned Ulysses because of its “obscenity.” A series of court battles ensued to determine the legality of selling Ulysses in the United States.

The question of Ulysses’ legality in the United States was heard in the court case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses. In 1933, Random House, a publishing company with rights to publish the entirety of Ulysses, decided to instigate a test case against the ban of the book.  Random House therefore made an arrangement to import the edition published in France and have a copy seized by the US Customs Service when the ship carrying the work arrived. After Customs confiscated the copies of the book, it took the US Attorney’s Office several months to decide whether to proceed further. The office of the US Attorney finally decided to take action against the book under the Tariff Act of 1930, which allowed a district attorney to bring an action for forfeiture and destruction of imported works which were obscene.

Ulysses was considered obscene because of Episode 13. In this part of the novel, Leopold Bloom and Gerty have a sexual interaction in which Gerty exposes her legs and underwear to Leopold Bloom while she lays on the ground, watching fireworks. Leopold Bloom presumably masturbates as a result of Gerty’s actions as he “puts his hands in his pockets”. The scene’s climax occurs when the fireworks end with a firework in the shape of a “Roman candle bursting in the air.” This moment conveys Bloom’s orgasm and ends his sexual interaction with Gerty.

 

Judge John M. Woolsey presided over the trial of the United States v. One Book Called Ulysses and he decided that Ulysses was not pornographic. To make this decision, Judge Woolsey spent weeks reading Ulysses, which he described as “not an easy book to read or to understand,” and “a heavy task” (United States v. One Book Called” Ulysses”). The judge ultimately found that the novel was serious and that its author was sincere and honest in showing how the minds of his characters operate and what they were thinking. Therefore, Ulysses was not legally considered obscene and a decade after it was published, it was legally allowed to be sold and obtained in the United States.

Since the uplift of the ban on Ulysses, James Joyce’s novel has been enjoyed and celebrated by millions of Americans. It has been labeled a “literary masterpiece” and entered the American literary canon. The book is so highly praised because of its stream-of-consciousness technique. James Joyce popularized this technique and it is a literary technique that attempts to portray the complexity of human ideas and thoughts through literature. The novel’s attempt at showing the complexity of human thought has made it difficult to read and scholars have argued over the meaning of the novel since it was published. However, an important lesson to take away from Ulysses is that novels must be protected and allowed to be sold and circulated. Novels have the distinct ability of conveying important lessons and messages. Without protecting their legality, their messages will simply fade into oblivion. It is important to preserve the legality of books like Ulysses to ensure that their messages live on. Lehigh Special Collections holds three different editions of Joyce’s Ulysses: the first edition published by Shakespeare and Company, the Limited Editions Club version with artwork by Henri Matisse, and a facsimile copy of the manuscript.

References

United States v. One Book Called” Ulysses”, 5 F. Supp. 182 (S.D.N.Y. 1933).

#bannedbooksweek 2017: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Banned Books Week, spanning September 24th to the 30th in 2017, is a time when libraries around the country celebrate the freedom to read and raise awareness of censorship. Since 1982 more than 11,300 books have been challenged, with this novel included in that number.

Cover of the Limited Editions Club The Great Gatsby
Cover of the Limited Editions Club publication of The Great Gatsby

     

Frontispiece and title page from the Limited Editions Club The Great Gatsby
Frontispiece and title page from the Limited Editions Club publication of The Great Gatsby

 

Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald depicted the society result from the end of the Great War in the 20s. Fitzgerald uses the main character, Jay Gatsby, to take the reader through the roller coaster that was life in the 20s, and still today, consisting of poverty, wealth, love, pain, and death. Nick Carraway, the narrator from the midwest and Daisy Buchanan’s cousin, makes his way to New York where he becomes the neighbor of the mysterious Gatsby. With Nick’s help, Gatsby is reunited with the love of his life, Daisy, after five years apart. Gatsby and Daisy maintain an affair until her self-righteous husband, Tom, finds out. Gatsby tries with everything he’s got to win Daisy over, but she refuses to say that she never loved Tom. Turns out Tom is also in an affair, but this discovery has an entirely different outcome. Daisy, blinded with rage, runs Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, over with her car. When Tom tells Myrtle’s husband, George, that Gatsby was the one who did the job, he shoots Gatsby in his pool before killing himself as well. Daisy moves on with her “perfect “ life, pretending as though Gatsby never even existed, and Nick journeys back to the midwest in search for genuine people.

Cover of The Great Gatsby Russian translation
Cover of The Great Gatsby Russian translation

 In 1987, the Baptist College in Charleston, SC challenged The Great Gatsby, arguing that Fitzgerald’s novel contains immoral “language and sex references” (Penn State). Although this was a heavy-handed opinion, there are many other interpretations of The Great Gatsby that provide reasons for why the novel should be made available and be taught in schools. Some even believe it is entirely necessary because of the way it can be used to teach valuable, historical lessons about the jazz age, mainly concerning prohibition. People were gluttonous, money was thrown around like candy, providing people with empty and temporary happiness in the form of superficial parties and booze. By Gatsby’s first-hand experience as a man who was only adored for his outrageous parties, his character along with the reader learne that money cannot buy you true friends that will be by your side to the end. None of Gatsby’s so-called friends even showed up to his funeral. The only people that attended were his father, the man with the owl eyes, and Nick. Despite the occasional inappropriate “language and sex references” (Penn State), this novel can be used to better understand the cultural context of the 1920s, rather than mundanely reading about it in a textbook. Such literary experiences can provide deeper meaning and understanding. A 1980 Limited Editions Club printing of this novel, featuring an introduction by Charles Scribner III and illustrations by Fred Meyer, can be found in Special Collections.  Several other editions can be found on the 3rd floor of Linderman Library, including the Russian translation pictured here.

 

Title page of The Great Gatsby Russian translation
Title page of The Great Gatsby Russian translation

References

  • https://sites.psu.edu/bannedbookscmlit130/2016/04/15/when-books-are-at-war-ft-the-great-gatsby/
  • http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/09/047.html

Banned Books Week: Daniel Gerhard “Dan” Brown and Modern Censorship

Throughout much of the latter part of the written word’s existence, books, especially of the science and fiction genres, have been banned for featuring content that went against the social or religious norms of society. One of the most famous conduits of these bans has been the Catholic Church, which published an index of banned books considered sinful to read, titled the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This index lasted from 1529 to 1966, when it was declared to not have paramount moral authority. Other sources of book bans throughout history have been governments, school systems, and religions. The targets of many early bans were scientific works such as those of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo in the 16th and 17th centuries. As history crept into the modern day and fiction became a more common genre of writing, banning books for sexual depictions, violence, and unpopular political views has become more common. In the modern age, with much emphasis being put on tolerance and acceptance, people may think that we are beyond the banning books, but we still see bans ranging from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, J.D. Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Authors can face bans on their books due to a book’s content and because they draw from facts in the real world.

The Da Vinci Code

In 2000, when Daniel Gerhard “Dan” Brown released his first Robert Langdon novel, Angels and Demons, he sparked a worldwide conversation on the content of literature and its relation to the real world. The book was a mystery which concluded in a camerlengo planting an antimatter bomb in the Vatican and faking a vision from God in order to save what he believed to be a dying Catholic Church. Brown’s consistent use of scientific facts and religious beliefs in his story added to the realism for which he became known. Many were infuriated for the insinuation that the Catholic Church’s hierarchy could be corrupt. This became a full-fledged debate with Brown’s 2003 publication of The Da Vinci Code. This novel is a mystery-thriller focusing on a murder connected to a secret society that was created to protect the Holy Grail. In the novel, Brown evokes the idea that the Holy Grail refers to Mary Magdalene and her descendants, who began with the children she bore with Jesus of Nazareth. Despite this idea being unoriginal, Brown brought it into the spotlight and offered the evidence for it in the novel. Some viewed this claim to be an affront on the Catholic Church and Christians everywhere. This led to the book being banned in countries such as Lebanon, Manila, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Samoa, Sri Lanka, and Jordan and being severely criticized by other countries including the Vatican. Brown’s books continue to use the themes of science and religion to analyze views on religion, the soul, morals, and hidden history. As movies based on his work come out worldwide, more and more governments and religions have been banning and criticizing the content of his writing.

We are now at an impasse in the debate where we can decide that Brown’s work is an example of artistic freedom and one man’s view on the world or denounce his work for going against traditional views and blurring the line between fiction and reality. This is a choice for our generation and for all future generations so that all views of a topic may be known and maybe, like in the case of early astronomers, the controversial views expressed may be proved true. This is why no book, written word, or even speech should be silenced or censored “for even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

Banned Books Week: Index Librorum Prohibitorum

While Banned Books Week now provides the opportunity to celebrate the reading and expression of unpopular or challenging ideas, the suppression and censoring of controversial ideas in printed books has a long and well documented history.

With the advent of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century came the ability to rapidly and widely disseminate information. This new method of printing made hand-written manuscripts largely obsolete, and in the process broke the Catholic Church’s near monopoly on the written word. In conjunction with the Christian Reformation, this literary revolution challenged the Roman Church’s moral and theological doctrines. In an attempt to combat this threat to Catholic dogma, Pope Paul IV published the 1559 Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This publication was an official list of “books which were not to be read or possessed by Roman Catholics without authorization, or which could be read only in approved or expurgated editions” (Glaister, p. 242). A more moderate, revised list was published in 1564 following the Council of Trent, which was later followed by another revision in 1897 by Pope Leo XIII. The final version of the list was published in 1948 and the Index was officially abolished by the Vatican in 1966.

 

Index Librorum Prohibitorum
Title page of the 1564 Index Librorum Prohibitorum. From the Internet Archive

 

The first librarian of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, Thomas James, anticipated Banned Books Week by several centuries. In 1627, James published his Index Generalis, which was based on the Index Expurgatorius, a list of works in need of revision or alteration for Catholic approval. James‘ Index was used “as an invaluable reference work to be sued by the curators of the Bodleian Library when listing those works particularly worthy of collecting” (Encyclopedia of Censorship, p. 133). According to the Encyclopedia of Censorship, James’ preface to the Index Generalis “makes his contempt for the Papacy clear, both because it extended so pervasive a censorship system and, perhaps more so, because the system was so poorly, ignorantly and unprofessionally implemented” (p. 133). Like the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, James’ Index continued to be used into the 20th century.

Literary Policy

One of the most famous authors on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was Galileo Galilei, who defended the Copernican model of a heliocentric solar system. Following his trial by the Roman Inquisition, Galileo’s Dialogo was added to the Index and he was officially prohibited from publishing any future works. This historic 1633 prohibition is noted in an 1830 publication titled Literary Policy of the Church of Rome, which was discovered in the circulating collection of Fairchild Martindale Library while researching this post and pictured above. This book was written by a British reverend and presents a historical analysis of the Catholic Church’s policy of censorship. Galileo did not abide by the Church’s ruling, publishing his seminal work Two New Sciences in 1638. Lehigh’s Special Collections holds several editions of Galileo’s Two New Sciences, including a copy of the first edition, which was the one millionth volume acquired by the Lehigh Libraries in 1992.

Discorsi

A 1564 version of an Index Librorum Prohibitorum is available online at The Internet Archive provided by the National Central Library of Rome.

A 1576 version of an Index Expurgatorius is available online at Hathitrust provided by Duke University.

References:

Glaister, G. A. (1996). Encyclopedia of the book (2nd ed.). New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press.

Green, J. (1990). The encyclopedia of censorship. New York, N.Y.: Facts on File.

Banned Books Week: Mark Twain and Huck Finn

Every year, the American Library Association (ALA) dedicates one week to education and advocacy about the problem of book censorship. This year, staff and students from Special Collections will be writing a series of blog posts examining controversial and challenged books in our holdings.

ALA Banned Books Week

ALA’s top ten most challenged books of 2015 are listed below, three of which are currently available in the collections of the Lehigh Libraries. The absence of commonly challenged books in Lehigh’s collection is not indicative of censorship but rather a reflection of the collection development and purchasing priorities of an academic institution, with a focus on research and scholarly support.

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Huck FInn Cover

While not on this year’s list of most challenged books, one of the most well-known and frequently contested books of the past one and a half centuries is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain and Huck Finn are of particular interest to us in Special Collections as they feature prominently in the ongoing exhibit in Linderman Library, Visual and Verbal: The Deborah and Alfred Judson Barcan Collection. Banned Books Week happens to coincide with an event honoring the Barcans for their gift, which will be held Wednesday, September 27 at 4:10pm in the Scheler Humanities Forum (Linderman 200). This event features a presentation by Associate Professor of English Seth Moglen, who will focus on the works of Twain in the Barcans’ collection. For more information on the Barcan Collection, visit the online exhibit, which includes images and descriptions of the books on display, including numerous works by Twain.

According to the ALA,

Since its publication in 1884, “Huck Finn” has been the subject of intense criticism and also acclaim. Initially dismissed by some for its “coarse” vernacular language, the book faced new objections in the twentieth century to its racial language and themes. In May 1996, a class action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, alleging that the district deprived minority students of educational opportunities by requiring racially offensive literature (including “Huck Finn”) as part of class assignments. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, stating he realized that “language in the novel was offensive and hurtful to the plaintiff,” but that the suit failed to prove the district violated students’ civil rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that requiring students to read literary works that some find racially offensive is not discrimination prohibited by the equal protection clause or Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Montecito v. Tempe Union High School District). Today, “Huck Finn” remains a classic contribution to American literature and is often ranked among the truly great American novels.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating 30 Years of Liberating Literature

Huck Finn

While the modern challenges against Huck Finn focus on its frequent use of the n-word and its racist portrayal of black people, these challenges are somewhat ironic considering that Twain was one of the more progressive writers of his era. In addition to the vernacular language, which readers at the time of its publication considered too vulgar for “real” literature, Huck Finn was also controversial for Huck’s decision to help Jim escape from slavery. In line with the prevailing sentiments of the time, Huck considers Jim to be the lawful property of the Widow Douglas. However, through their adventures together, Huck starts to see Jim as a human being and questions the morality of what for the time should have been the clear course of action – to return the Widow’s stolen property to her. Instead, Huck decides that he would rather endure eternal damnation for stealing and helps Jim to escape.