Insofar as literature is defined negatively, by what it is not, censorship has had a determining role in its historical constitution. Contemporary scholarship emphasizes the dynamic interplay between literary expression and forms of cultural regulation, recognizing its paradoxically productive capacity to generate as well as suppress meaning. At the same time, accounting for censorship’s role in the history of the world’s literature means coming to grips with the often brutal repression, prohibition, and persecution of writing, writers, performance, and cultural producers by sovereign power underwritten by violence. Tracing the genealogies of literary censorship, from its formulations in ancient Rome, through medieval religious persecution, sedition and heresy charges, theatre controls, early modern print and copyright licensing, to the seeming breakthroughs of the Enlightenment, details the interdependence of modernity and cultural regulation. At stake in this history are defining relations between culture and society, knowledge and power, not least in the manner in which literature traverses the boundary between public and private, and censorship polices that divide. The art-for-art’s-sake defense, which separates the literary from what is offensive—nominally from obscenity, pornography, libel, blasphemy, and sedition and effectively from politics, intimacy, and the real—stumbles and fails in the face of culture’s variant aims and readers’ differing pleasures. And the state’s use of the law to enforce its role as a custosmorum has placed not only art in opposition to the law, as Gustave Flaubert saw, but also culture in opposition to morality, when the state becomes the modern arbiter of culture’s social and political roles. The available frames for understanding censorship, from liberal, materialist, psychoanalytic, linguistic, and poststructuralist positions, face challenges from diversifying and yet synthesizing situations for literature in a global world.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. Please check back later for the full article.
Films incorporating fairy-tale narratives, characters, titles, images, plots, motifs, and themes date from the earliest history of the cinema, with director Georges Méliès’s Le manoir du diable [The house of the devil], made in 1896, the year after Auguste and Louis Lumière’s first public showing of their “cinematograph” in Paris, in 1895. Fairy tales can be oral (told by people in different geographical locations and at various historical times up to the present) and/or literary (written by known authors). While the Disney formula of innocent persecuted heroes and heroines and “happy-ever-afters” has dominated popular understandings of such narratives (at least in the English-speaking world), fairy tales need not contain these elements. They concern many aspects of the fantastic, the magical, the dark, the dreamy, the wishful, and the wonderful. Short and feature length, animated and live action, produced in film stock, video, and digital formats, fairy-tale films have appeared in theaters and, more recently, on television and computer screens. Fairy-tale filmic intertexts can include explicit reference in the title—for example, Hansel and Gretel Get Baked (director Duane Journey, 2013); implicit reference in the title—for example, Mirror, Mirror (director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, 2012); explicit incorporation into the text—as when Le piège d’Issoudun (director Micheline Lanctôt, 2003) includes a play of “The Juniper Tree;” implicit in the text—as when A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (director Steven Spielberg, 2001) has the human mother abandon her mechanical child, David, in the woods (as do the parents of Hansel and Gretel); discussion of fairy tales, as in the “Once Upon a Crime” episode of the TV show Castle (director Jeff Bleckner, 2012), when the writer and police talk about what fairy tales really mean; and setting and/or environment, as in the portions of Pan’s Labyrinth (director Guillermo del Toro, 2006), set in the magical kingdom of heroine Ofelia’s father. Filmmakers may re-vision a story with new spin—Freeway II (director Matthew Bright, 1999) relocates “Hansel and Gretel” to 1990s America, with two delinquent teen girls fleeing to Mexico), or they may create an entirely new tale—like Pan’s Labyrinth, not based on any specific previous literary or traditional fairy tale. Although classic works like director Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête [Beauty and the beast] (1946) have received considerable attention in cinema studies, and the fairy-tale structural analysis of Vladimir Propp has greatly influenced film analysis, only since the beginning of the 21st century has fairy-tale scholarship merged with film scholarship from the perspectives of criminology, cultural studies, discourse analysis, ethnography and auto-ethnography, feminism, folklore, historiography, political economy, postcolonial theory, and queer theory, among others. Scholars of fairy-tale film have considered adaptation, auteurs, genres, intermediality, and seriality, as well as particular movies and cinematic versions of tales.
Since the 1960s, film theory has undergone rapid development as an academic discipline—to such an extent that students new to the subject are quickly overwhelmed by the extensive and complex research published under its rubric. “Film Theory in the United States and Europe” presents a broad overview of guides to and anthologies of film theory, followed by a longer section that presents an historical account of film theory’s development—from classical film theory of the 1930s–1950s (focused around film as an art), the modern (or contemporary) film theory of the 1960s–1970s (premised on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, and psychoanalysis), to current developments, including the New Lacanians and cognitive film theory. The second section ends with a very brief overview of film and/as philosophy. The article covers the key figures and fundamental concepts that have contributed to film theory as an autonomous discipline within the university. These concepts include ontology of film, realism/the reality effect, formalism, adaptation, signification, voyeurism, patriarchy, ideology, mainstream cinema, the avant-garde, suture, the cinematic apparatus, auteur-structuralism, the imaginary, the symbolic, the real, film and emotion, and embodied cognition.
“Liveness” is a crucial concept that traverses the boundaries of many academic disciplines; however, most prominently, performance studies, media studies, and music studies have been engaged in the ongoing debate regarding its shifting parameters. Not only does the concept navigate through multiple academic disciplines, but it also calls attention to the constantly morphing conditions of social interaction and community formation in an ever-digitizing world. Defined from a wide range of perspectives throughout history under specific sociocultural circumstances, the idea has brought critical scrutiny to the related questions of presence, disappearance, absence, and recurrence of the performing subject. At the same time, immediacy, temporality, and authenticity of human contact as well as human-to-nonhuman contact have also been interrogated under the rubric of liveness.
Interdisciplinary studies of liveness tend to inquire into three areas: ideology, technology, and ontology of performance, which are by no means fixed terrains but rather overlapping and corroborating regimes reflecting the transforming notions of liveness. As the medium of performance became more diversified and convergent over time, the notion of liveness accordingly became complicated. Liveness is no longer defined simply as “bodily co-presence of actors and spectators” (Erika Fischer-Lichte), but with historical specificity in mind and with an eye to the way “the idea of what counts culturally as live experience changes over time in relation to technological change” (Philip Auslander, “Digital Liveness: A Historic-Philosophical Perspective,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 34, no. 3 (2012), 3.
There are no limitations to the performance genres and platforms that fall under the critical analysis of liveness: music, TV, stage plays, online media, live-action roleplay (LARP), and mixed-reality performance—“mixing of the real and virtual as well as their combination of live performance and interactivity” (Benford and Giannachi: 1)—all wrestle with the ontological questions of what is live. On a more profound level, the derivative semantics of liveness, such as “live,” “alive,” and “life,” point to the ontological dimension of the term as they collectively articulate the “ephemerality, mediation, reproduction, and representation” (Daniel Sack, After Live [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015], 13) of human life.
Networks influence practically every subfield of literary studies. Unlike hierarchies and centralized structures, networks connote decentralization and distribution. The abstraction of this form makes it applicable to a wide variety of phenomena. For example, the metaphor and form of the network informs the way we think about communication systems in early American writing, social networks in Victorian novels, transnational circulation in postcolonial literature, and computer networks in late 20th-century cyberpunk fiction. Beyond traditional literary genres, network form is also accessible through comparative media analysis. Films, television serials, video games, and transmedia narratives may represent or evoke network structures through medium-specific techniques. The juxtaposition of different literary and artistic forms, across media, helps to defamiliarize network forms and make these complex structures available to thought. Across subfields of literary studies, critics may be drawn to networks because of their resonance with histories of the present and contemporary technoscience. Scholars may also recognize the sense of complexity and interconnection inherent in networks, which resonates with experiences of intertextuality and close reading itself. In addition to studying representations of networks, literary critics employ a variety of network-related methods. These approaches include historicist scholarship that uses network structures to think about social organization and communication in different eras, quantitative digital humanities tools that map networks of literary circulation, qualitative sociology of literature and reader-response theory that analyze networks of readers and publishers, and formalist work that compares network and aesthetic forms.