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date: 30 April 2017

Censorship and Literature

Summary and Keywords

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.

Keywords: censor, prohibition, banning, obscenity, blasphemy, sedition, defamation, libel, offense, pornography, regulation, self-censorship


In 1988, Sue Curry Jansen described censorship as “the knot that binds power and knowledge,” and this binding has remained, loosely or tightly, at the heart of the dynamic between censorship and literature.1 Censorship has been an aspect of social communication for as long as societies have conceived of the latter as a public good, and in the way that, through Jansen’s knot, they have been mutually determining, censorship and literature have been coeval. Censorship defines the literary by outlawing that which it is not allowed to be; literature shapes censorship by exploring and contesting its limits. Institutionally, and insofar as literature has a public and reading is a collective act, censorship has been literature’s determining other. And insofar as censorship in its modern incarnation is cotemporaneous with print culture and dependent for its character on the media technologies and forms of literacy grown by that age, literature has been its most persistent and prominent antagonist. This negative identification, through modernity, has produced the character, form, and identity of literature and censorship as we understand them now. In the contemporary moment, however, neither remains stable and neither category’s current manifestation, legally, socially, or institutionally, can claim any permanency.

The Latin word censor referred to one of the two magistrates in the Roman’s censorial bureaucracy, established in 443 bce, but the Romans did not invent censorship, and neither did the Greeks. Social and political injunctions on forms of speech and representation featured in many ancient civilizations, from early Sumeria and Egypt to the controls built into Chinese ideography, as well as the taboos and protocols maintained around symbolic meaning in numerous other societies. The Freudian definition, of course, refers to a foundational aspect of the functional consciousness, in which unacceptable subconscious forms of meaning and desire are suppressed and displaced; such a model understands censorship to be a constitutive lesson learned by the social subject, dependent neither on a public context nor on forms of collective or sanctioned political power. While recognizing the nonrational and subjective impulses that can collectively animate social censorship is highly revealing, contemporary censorship scholarship is generally focused on public and communal forms of regulation, practices implemented through contracted and legitimated forms of power over groups or populations on a greater than individual scale.

The definition of censorship given by the current Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communication is one of the more useful—“any regime or context in which the content of what is publically expressed, exhibited, published, broadcast, or otherwise distributed is regulated or in which the circulation of information is controlled,” or “a regulatory system for vetting, editing, and prohibiting particular forms of public expression,” or, even more generally, “the practice and process of suppression or any particular instance of this.” This definition’s contemporary focus is on the institutional application of control, distinguishing legally administrated regimes and contexts from private, individual, or singular instances, and asserting as key the complex fact of public expression. This focus distinguishes it from older definitions, including those in other Oxford dictionaries, which show the influence of the word’s Latinate origins in formulating the role of the “censor” as a single operative. The OED’s definition of “censor” in 1974 was “An official whose duty it is to inspect books, journals, plays etc., before publication, to ensure that they contain nothing immoral, heretical, or offensive or injurious to the State.” Dating that usage to 1644, the same year as John Milton’s Areopagitica, it also includes “one who censors private correspondence (as in time of war)” from 1914. The emphasis on the individual censor is notable, but so is the delineation of targets, much more distinctly literary in their itemization than the broadly disseminated forms of communication identified now. In the most immediate reading of this definition, censorship is an activity confined to or exercised only by the state—by an “official” who protects sovereign power from offense. “Immoral, heretical or offensive” describe rather free-floating offenses, however, that have no specified subject or content: the material just is such, without a witness or reader who manifests that offense. Perhaps most anachronistic is the qualifier: “before publication.” Modern liberal censorship regimes have in general abjured the Tudor or early modern practice of controlling the means of production to regulate expression, prioritizing instead effective forms of post-publication and distribution control such as prosecution, imprisonment and seizures, customs and visa controls, point-of-sale and postal regulation, consumer education and ratings systems, and industry self-regulation. Many notably strict censorship regimes have refused the designation on the grounds that pre-publication controls were not in place, including in apartheid South Africa and pre-revolutionary France, while contemporary licensing requirements for media outlets and Internet service providers offer arguably similar regulatory instruments to contemporary governments.

Frames for Censorship

It is possible to conceive of censorship through quite variant theoretical frames, of course. Liberal models for censorship inherit from Enlightenment thinkers a structuring opposition between freedom and control, a pervasive Manichean divide that informs many arguments today.2 Milton’s much-quoted pamphlet argued that truth should be able to defend itself and that “bad books” would never disappear. Work by thinkers such as André Morellet in France and C. G. Svarez in Germany continued similar arguments in the 18thcentury. In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill elaborated, in 1859, the argument that truth was best established in unrestricted combat with all ideas, going further than Milton in arguing that we should tolerate ideas we find repellent. The principles of “freedom of speech” as a right enshrined in the First Amendment of the constitution of the United States in 1791 have been elaborated to argue for a free “marketplace” of ideas, and at stake in this conception is a determining assertion of individualized freedom that continues to be enshrined as a foundation of democracy.

Western Marxist and materialist models have emphasized the interests at stake in forms of state and private control, attending to the directed economic and superstructural benefits of hierarchized suppression and emphasizing the importance for censorship of control over the means of culture’s production. Marx began his career as a journalist with an essay on censorship, which the German authorities then censored, and at his trial for “outrages par parole” during the revolutions of 1848 declared, “The first duty of the press, therefore, is to undermine the foundations of the existing political system.”3 Capital’s stake in what Mill condemned as “private censorship”—the most dangerous of all forms, because so “pervasive and so ineradicable compared to legislation, which may be judicially overturned”—remains an often ungraspable aspect of contemporary cultural dissemination.4 Media oligopolies enact forms of private censorship, where the interests of corporations or organizations can determine the nature of information reported to the public or the kinds of cultural expression reproduced and made accessible; it is a stretch to say publishers can have this role too, but not a long stretch., the China-specific version of Google’s expansive Internet search service, is a key example of public/private partnership in contemporary regulation, in which a multinational company voluntarily aids in implementing the Chinese government’s Internet censorship system, given official guidance but “charged to draw the line for itself.”5 Even in oligopolies, the nature of private control usually means that alternative avenues of expression remain, however, including not only state-sponsored forums but also other ventures or platforms owned by different parties. In this sense, the role of private ownership as a form of censorship has been limited or relative compared to regimes of regulation administered by governments on a national scale. Contemporary electronic forms of communication have long escaped the confines of the nation-state, however, while becoming increasingly agglomerated via a confined number of dominant providers, companies, and media platforms who can exercise control over very large numbers of users with little regard to countries of origin or national jurisdictions. The arenas of expression thus subject to private censorship are expanding rapidly and complexly.

Political and media studies accounts insistently characterize the object of prohibition as information, maintaining, as did Milton and Mill, that the public’s access to what is simply “the truth” is what matters.6 Rather, literature’s challenge to censorship has been its claim to art: in Western law, well before the defense of “art’s for art’s sake” developed in the trials of Flaubert and Charles Baudelaire in Second Empire France, this claim had strong defenders, though it was formalized as “literary or artistic merit” only in 20th-century statutes. The relative importance of obscenity as an offense in modern cultural and literary censorship, instead of sedition or blasphemy, and for Madam Bovary perhaps in particular, demonstrates the weakness of that defense, and the degree to which definition of “the literary” has been vulnerable to profound and indeed determining control from regulation. This has occurred not just in the law courts but in censorship’s control over how and in what manner cultural products are produced, distributed, and consumed, determining what forms of meaning are allowed legitimacy in the literary field. There is also a clash of values here, between the press and the arts, knowledge and culture, and ultimately between public and private spheres, reflecting literature’s keen interest (and social role) in intimacy and subjective identity. In prohibiting obscenity, censorship’s aim is not just to keep obscenity “private” (that is, to refuse to allow it to become “information”) but to determine and shape public knowledge of private possibilities—to make private life.

In this regard, Michel Foucault’ scritique of the Enlightenment model, what he termed the “repressive hypothesis,” has had a long tenure for contemporary understandings of literary censorship. Refuting the Manichean divide (“there is no binary division to be made between what one says and what one does not say”), Foucault’s History of Sexuality famously asserted, “Rather than a massive censorship, beginning with the verbal proprieties imposed by the Age of Reason, what was involved was a regulated and polymorphous incitement to discourse.”7 With Foucault, emphasis shifted to the productive capacity of regulation—the paradoxical ability of prohibition to call into discourse, or interpolate, that which was otherwise unnamable. At the same time, post-Freudian psychoanalytic models, which have been extrapolated to explain social and representational control, enabled theorizations of censorship as fundamental to all human speech and meaningmaking. The mundane acts of selection, prioritization, authorizing, and refusal that occur in every piece or act of communication are understood as at once essential to it and all forms of censorship. Without such editorial sanctions and control, whether unconscious, individual, collective, or political, Judith Butler (among others) has argued, communication would be impossible, and sociality too, not to mention culture. The constitution of the subject is “tied to the circumscribed production of the domain of the speakable.”8 The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues for the dependence of the conditions for discourse on principles of exclusion. His Language and Symbolic Power delineates the structuring relations of the “linguistic habitus” and the “linguistic marketplace,” which at both levels incorporate censorship, delineating capacities and propensities but also “specific sanctions and censorships.”9 For Bourdieu, a fundamental tension between “the expressive interest” and censorship structures all social communication.

The problems that historical accounts have with the common-sense understanding of self-censorship—the internal, individual suppression of what would otherwise be expressed publicly—are that such instances are ephemeral and non-identical, and rarely demonstrate a measurable, verifiable application of power or suppressive control. This sort of critique can be brought against the “new censorship scholarship” that enacted this poststructuralist position, in which censorship is not only pervasive and inevitable, but fundamentally constitutive, and mundane or even enabling for speech. Beate Müller and other scholars of the former Eastern Bloc states have been insistent, moreover, in the wake of the opening of the archives of state socialist censorship, on the importance of distinguishing between such mundane suppression and regimes of calculated and enforced control.10

Debates about the ways in which censorship can be regulative and/or constitutive, aiming to direct and suppress expression that nonetheless occurs or to control expression at a formative level, as Sue Curry Jansen elaborates,11 depend in large part on how the object of state censorship is couched. Is it the individual subject or national discourse (or national space, or identity) that national regimes seek to protect? Is state censorship constituting the citizen or regulating public knowledge, or both at once? Using power to delimit knowledge, censorship targets literature insofar as and in the ways in which it first manifests the too-knowing subject, at ease with forms of understanding unsanctioned by regulated consensus or sovereign power, and second, enacts public identity, in the sense of identification, cathecting such understanding beyond a single reading moment. When we push to discover exactly how literature is posited as dangerous by the administrators of censorship, the literary’ saesthetic motivations are laid bare, even though its dangers may be no differently conceived than those of film, various information media, and other forms of popularly circulated culture. Literature and censorship’s shared histories, their parallel and interdependent teleologies, however, can show us what their objects, in practice, have in common.


Attending to the “emergence” of what is now couched as freedom of expression, the American constitutional historian Leonard W. Levy notes a few writers from ancient Greece claiming such, particularly Euripides, whose plays he describes as “a storehouse of allusions to the glories and values of free speech.”12 Ion and The Pheonissae are cited as asserting the value of a citizen’s right to an unbridled tongue, as is the thought of Demosthenes, and such examples have instanced for similar readers a long-held position for the literary on the side of open and unhindered expression. Yet, as Levy also notes, “there is no evidence that even the most libertarian among the Greeks suffered oral or written sedition to exist with impunity.”13 Socrates’ notorious punishment is the inaugurating moment for the other narrative of this history—in which censorship’s suppression of disruptive or subversive communication remains a constant in the cultural memory of the Western world.

Observing the effects of Nero’s censorship, the paradoxically productive effect of banning was noted in 109 ce by Tacitus, in his Histories: “So long as the possession of these writings was attended by danger, they were eagerly sought and read: when there was no longer any difficulty in securing them, they fell into oblivion.”14 The Roman population established economies of reading that were not coextensive with the state’s prescriptions, and this evidence demonstrates the ways in which forms of free expression have also depended on enabling structures of power secondary and tertiary to those of the state. From these early modelings, European notions of liberal freedom and entitled citizenship arose. The Roman censors were responsible for the official census of citizens, and in counting they also designated, so they had considerable power in determining what qualified a man for citizenship: this oversight became effectively the supervision of public morals. They even approved membership of the Senate, dependent on requisite behavioral standards, and a censorial “nota” could mean exclusion.15 Thus the censors combined moral and political functions—delimiting membership of the political class according to adjudged and deliberated observation of social behavior.

This mode of control rapidly expanded from persons to writings. Tacitus claims Augustus as the first proper censor: “the first ruler to punish words unaccompanied by action,” as Jansen couches it.16 Libellifamosi laws prohibited libelous or scandalous writing, while sedition was punishable by imperial decree, since libeling the emperor libeled the state. Hannah Arendt’s argument that clear and rigid distinctions between public and private were characteristic of classical Rome and Athens is useful in thinking about the longuedurée of European censorship, and more than that about the ways in which political theory has conceived of its relation to the idea of freedom. If it is the realm of the polis that is the “sphere of freedom,” as Arendt couched it, “it was a matter of course that the mastering of the necessities of life in the household was the condition for freedom of the polis.”And if “necessity is primarily a prepolitical phenomenon, characteristic of the private household organization, … force or violence are justified in this sphere because they are the only means to master necessity—for instance by ruling over slaves—and to become free.”17 The affairs of the “public world” are matters for free debate between equals—the “true liberty” Euripides assigns to “free-born men,” as Milton quotes him to begin Aeropagitica—but the freedom of these “equals” is dependent on the violent nonfreedom of those on whom the citizen relies to meet his needs in private: women and slaves. Arendt’s stark division misses the activity of the marketplace and trade and manufacture, “abandoned to slaves,” as she acknowledges, but her emphasis on separation offers an explanation not only of the pressure to regulate and suppress traffic in meaning, especially from the intimate realm to the public, but of the ways in which forms of political and social organization themselves enact or militate for profound kinds of censorship, prior to acts of expression, when even majority populations are kept from public expression, sunk in labor and what Giorgio Agamben calls “bare life.”

Moreover, the definition of “public” itself remains complex: for Arendt importantly a “space of appearance” at the center of common concern, in which “everything that appears … can be seen and heard by everybody.”18 Public meaning is defined not only by access to oral authority and limited literacy, asmodes of dissemination and productionas well as regulation, but also by the ways in which the borderline between household and polis was often crossed and blurred, as Arendt recognizes, citing Plato’s use of everyday and private experiences as examples.19 For her, there is a crucial intermediary space between these two spheres: the “curiously hybrid realm where private interests assume public significance that we call ‘society.’”20 As for many other European historians and philosophers, for Arendt this realm comes into proper existence only with the emergence of a market economy in the 16thcentury, which ushers in the socialization of private concerns and the overtaking of public life by collective material interests. At issue in this mediation between realms is the role of literature—the epics, the theater, and orations—and its pervasive interest in the claims of the private sphere not only to public attention but also to political content: Ariadne’s political choices as a daughter and wife, or Electra’s testimony to the importance of affect in the rule of law. And in this way we see Arendt’s public ideal always already inflected by moral questions sourced in the family and household, in intimacy and in relationships of need and dependence.

Dating “freedom of speech” as a phrase from the struggles of the British Parliament to achieve free debate, including criticism of the sovereign, Leonard Levy and others suggest that this predates the conception of “free speech” as a modern civil liberty, but such a separation is linguistic and legal in its historicism.21 Arendt’s explorations of the restrictions bound into the constitution of the civic sphere throw into question the character of liberties afforded to it and the genesis of free speech in civil society, challenging a narrative in which it “evolves as an offshoot of freedom of the press and freedom of religion.”22

Political histories of censorship narrow their interest to impositions on critiques of the conduct of power—the offense of sedition and ideological dissent—but the Roman censors’ fundamental strictures were moral: they were the custosmorum, and this can be argued to be the key legal role for any censorship regime in so far as it is a regime. The moral dimensions of political positions and religious conduct are where offense is registered, for example insofar as criticism of a sovereign regards a ruler’s proper conduct. As religious heresy and blasphemy rose to the top of the list of offenses in early Christianity and through the Middle Ages, what would later be called obscenity also gained greater prominence as a measure of moral conduct in the policing of scandalous utterance, blasphemy, and libel. Arguably, literature has always been subject to the policing of shared morality, in distinguishing itself from forms of historical and philosophical writing through its focus on situations of moral ambiguity and its role in enacting cultural pleasure.


From the church of Rome came a papacy that began to act as a government, “by means of the law,” and Walter Ullman’s account of medieval political thought argues for the ways in which Christian dogma and doctrine were fitted to a “Roman jurisprudential scheme,” asserting the maxim that “the Latin world … and later also the Germanic world, were given their faith, their religion, their dogma in the shape of the law.”23 The legal codes of church and state, thus intermeshed, forbade heresy and treason as crimes against God and king, respectively, and reinforced each other’s power: in 1414 the English Parliament confirmed the right of ecclesiastical officials to prosecute the producers of heretical books.24 The 14th-century English “literature of protest,” a body of satire and complaint that stretches to the corpus of outlaw ballads and poetry, often targeting corrupt justice and royal government, has connections to rebellions and agitations of that age in both France and England, while the group of statutes known as Scandalum Magnatum and the first statute of Westminster from 1275 extrapolated from the crime of treason to indict “any false news or tales whereby discord or occasion of discord or slander may grow between the king and his people, or the great men of the realm …”25 Drawn from the Roman law of iniuria, as Debora Shuger establishes, defamation and libel were central protections afforded to persons in public that distinguished English law from papal concepts, and the powerful role of fiction in political critique is hinted at in these histories, provoking truth as a defense but also the performance of virtue.26 The introduction of the Catholic Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1559, with the later addition of the Expurgatory Catalogues, began the modern administration of banned lists, facilitating bibliographic surveillance with positive and productive consequences as well as repressive ones. Exported to the Americas along with the Inquisition, religious colonial censorship triumphed in the burning of the Mayan codices, though Sue Curry Jansen records that in 1627 the Index was hailed by anti-Catholic scholar Thomas James as an indispensable guide to the medieval literature of protest and “invaluable as records of the literature of the doctrines and opinions obnoxious to Rome.”27

The Reformation, as Leonard Levy notes, “by making the monarch the head of the established church, converted every religious question into a political one and suffused government policies with religious overtones. As a result, nonconformity and heresy became virtually indistinguishable from sedition and treason.”28 In Tudor England, law expanded and particularized such capital offenses, including conspiring and even compassing—“words were interpreted to constitute the overt act”29—and under Henry VIII and Mary, executions by burning reached unprecedented numbers. Elsewhere in Europe, the state became the dominant force in policing crimes against religion too, even in Catholic countries, with political motivations justifying persecution. But under Elizabeth I in England, heresy ceased to be a capital crime: as populations began to accept the idea that religious belief could be relative rather than absolute, regulation moved from heresy to blasphemy, from the ecclesiastical courts to the monarch’s.30 Parliament discussed reviving the writ for burning heretics to deal with Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan in 1666, but the bill failed, and in 1677 the writ was permanently abolished. In effect, while blasphemy was also a capital offense, reinforced by passage of an act against it in 1698, it was a lesser one: charges of atheism were more likely to result in death. Scholars of Levy’s generation have argued that repressive persecution under Charles I saw nonconformity as the more heinous crime, because it was a willful opposition to the laws of both church and state, and when enforced by the Star Chamber and the King’s Bench, this could be converted easily into sedition, during the period leading up to the outbreak of civil war.31

Evidence of censorship in Shakespeare’s folios shows us in detail some of the ways in which the categories of offense were enacted for literature—oaths were policed as much as speech with more directly political import, for example. Passed in 1606, the Profanity Act “to restrain abuses of players” required that performers who “in any stage play, interlude, show, may-game, or pageant, jestingly or profanely speak or use the holy name of God or of Christ Jesus, or of the Holy Ghost or of the Trinity” should “forfeit for every such offence by him or them committed ten pounds.”32 After this, as Stanley Wells notes, Shakespeare’s plays were mainly set in the pre-Christian era. Censorship of plays was managed by the Master of the Revels, formally deputized by the Lord Chamberlain to rehearse and approve plays for court and later public performance, and from 1607 to approve them for printing. Differences between the quarto and folio editions of The Second Part of Henry the IV show the latter devoid of oaths, and also evidence removal and then restoration of material referring to the fate of Richard II: “it has usually been assumed that the stirrings of what would become the Earl of Essex’s rebellion had by 1600 made these speeches look uncomfortably topical.”33

Richard Burt’s Foucauldian discussion of Ben Jonson’s complex positioning, as a jailed playwright later engaged in the culture of court censorship, questions the dichotomy between regulation and liberty presumed in such discussion. While English theatres were closed between 1642 and 1660, Burt reminds us to consider what was at stake in the professionalization of the stage earlier in the century, tracking efforts by Jonson and Shakespeare to distinguish their productions from popular and unsanctioned entertainments or “cozenage.”34

Also evident in this history is regulation’s trajectory from oral and theatrical forms to print, as well as the ways in which literary and cultural forms not only were complicit with but also escaped, mocked, and worked around mechanisms of control. Throughout these centuries, of course, the techniques of printing and demand for the products of the early presses were expanding rapidly, enabling the development of a commercial periodical press, independent of state power.35 Formative definitions of modern censorship are sourced in the 16thcentury (Arendt’s date for modern society), contemporaneous not only with the development of tradeable literature, the beginnings of middle-class literacy, and the formalization of linguistic norms, but also with legislative strategies to regulate this volatile environment. Printers were subject to a licensing system in the United Kingdom that was imposed by a Star Chamber decree in 1586 and reestablished by Charles II in 1662 after the chamber’s abolition and Stamp Acts targeted the proliferation of newspapers (in Ireland too). France developed, by the early 1700s, what is recognizable as a centralized formal regime, with supervisory censors and restrictive licensing of a highly systematic order, regulating a printing industry difficult to contain within the borders of the state and modeling a rationalized system for the rest of Europe. Excepting England, where the licensing act lapsed in 1695, all states in Europe had laws requiring permission to print until the French Revolution. However, in the United Provinces of the Netherlands, for example, censorship was less systematic, only occasionally intensive. The Qing or Manchu Dynasty in China from 1644 to 1911, the last of the great dynasties, maintained a banned list of about two thousand items and, in its battle to sustain cultural unity in the face of dissenting print, perpetrated “many famous cases of literary inquisitions and burning of books and persecution of authors,” as Lin Yutang’s 1936 History of the Press and Public Opinion in China notes.36

Contemporary scholars, however, have shifted our understanding of the complex cultural history this legal history overlays. Shuger argues, in the case of Tudor and Stuart censorship, that “the state had neither the will nor the resources to suppress all dissent; that in practice, censorship tended to be a haphazard affair, less a matter of systematic repression than intermittent crackdowns in response to local contingencies.”37 Robert Darnton’s expansive work on the literary underground of the ancien régime builds on the consensus that “the literature of the Enlightenment was notorious for developing hidden complicities between writers and readers, and such complicities often served as a way of circumventing censorship,”38 and indeed much Enlightenment thought was entwined with scandalous tracts, often obscene and libelous, while some of the great French pornographers of the age had international readerships. Together with Burt’s work, Lynn Hunt’s and Joan DeJean’s on the invention of obscenity, as well as Cyndia Clegg’s study of Jacobean regulation, have moved censorship scholarship away from sweeping histories of law and politics toward localized contexts: “any act of censorship needs to seek its rationale in the confluence of immediate contemporary economic, religious, and political events” and in relation to “varied and often contradictory and competing interests.”39

Case studies of individual persecution or complicity with suppression are many, each a highly revealing petitsrécits to narrativize the dynamic through which censorship produced the literary and vice versa. The autodidact William Hone’s acquittal in three trials for blasphemy in Regency Britain, for example, as Clara Tuite argues, in requiring elucidation of the difference between sedition and blasphemy, and in turn literature and scripture (thus also church and state), correspondingly forced development of the distinction between the literary and the offensive, witnessing at once compulsory performance of proscribed speech and public embrace of Hone’s parodies as forms of political radicalism.40 But book history more recently has been interested in the cumulative data to be found in publishing, library and state records of bannings and regulation, looking to identify systems and broader patterns across states, national and colonial readerships, and intersected publishing economies. The close relations between the formation of nation-states, as in modern Europe, and requirements for control over the circulation of meaning are evident, from the introduction of copyright laws to border policing of suspect imports. On the one hand, Benedict Anderson’s imagined community of conjoined readers is the motivating specter for national censorship, in contained and delineated space; on the other, the ability of print to travel, exhort, and communicate across space and time provokes both the consolidation of national languages and state activity to regulate entrepreneurial print production. Censorship has remained bound within this nexus at a fundamental level.

Modern Censorship

Nationmaking was also the work of colonialism through these centuries, especially in settler contexts, and literary censorship had a crucial role to play, albeit a negatively productive one, in the formation of cultural identity and the administration of empire. The circulation of illicit and underground publications both to and from the literate colonies is a shadowed but determining component of the interdependent relations between print and imperialism, and especially obscenity and empire, while the suppression and prohibition of resistant colonized expression was important for domination.41 The Inquisition had more power and impact than Spanish state censorship in colonial Peru, from its introduction in 1568 through to 1820, though the latter required licensing of every individual publication. Enforced use of papal indices, strict parish controls, and restricted dissemination characterized French Catholic colonial censorship in Quebec. The licensing of printers and the use of copyright law as a regulatory practice was exported from Britain to colonial North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and elsewhere, though not to Ireland. The print and press government monopoly in the Dutch East Indies persisted until the first half of the 20th century, and the great Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, banned and imprisoned from 1965 to 1980 for purported connections to communism, drew explicit parallels between Dutch colonial censorship and his experiences under Suharto’s dictatorship.42 English-owned printing in19th-century China was dominated by missionary interests and then served as propaganda for the superiority of Western culture. In India, censorship under the English was served by an “administration that depended on modern modes of information gathering—that is, on an endless flow of words on paper”; as Robert Darnton describes, this included gigantic catalogues of publications compiled by the civil service that “constituted a census of Indian literature as the imperial authorities understood it.”43

The first U.S. conviction under the common law crime of obscene libel occurred in 1815, and the burgeoning provocations of pornography as this regulation’s primary object were a key motivation for 19th-century legislative censorship, in the wake of obscenity emerging as a legal category in the 18th century. Its articulation broke down in the later 19th century into political issues of social importance, under pressure from feminism, socialism, mass literacy, and transformative changes in the relation between public and private spheres. In 1847, Canada’s Customs Act first prohibited the importation of “books and drawings of an immoral or indecent character”;44 in 1853, Britain’s Customs Consolidation Act incorporated express prohibitions on obscene or indecent articles, formalizing cordons sanitaires against immorality from elsewhere. Michael Roberts noted the coincidence of debate of the 1857 Obscene Publications Act in the English House of Lords with the arrival of news of the Indian Mutiny two days later.45 Regimes of regulation all over the British Empire were bolstered by this act and by the common-law armor provided in 1868 by the Regina vs Hicklin decision, which famously defined obscenity as “a tendency to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such influences, and into whose hands a publication … may fall.”46 Battles were formalized in court cases that resulted in jailing and fining authors, publishers, and booksellers; circulating libraries enacted their own forms of discriminatory control. This laid bare the class- and gender-based dimensions of obscenity and blasphemy policing.

Also in 1857, in Second Empire France, the trials of Gustav Flaubert and his publisher and printer for the publication of Madam Bovary and of Charles Baudelaire and his publisher for Les Fleurs du Mal featured an influential stand-off between literature and legislation, or art and law, which, for Bourdieu and others, inaugurated modern articulations of the literary as an autonomous field, seeking aesthetic freedom as such—“art for art’s sake.”47 This oppositional framing had some significant influence, even on the early imperatives of film censorship, which was institutionalized in many countries around the world from the first decades of the 20th century and bolstered by its often explicitly articulated distinctions from the social or artistic merits of literature. In Australia, French naturalism brought the customs officers of the colonial states into the law courts in the 1880s, reacting to the prosecution of Emile Zola’s publisher Albert Vizetelly in the United Kingdom, as well as to the work of freethinkers and birth control advocates.48 Postal censorship was especially important in targeting the latter—vigorously policing the ingress of sexual literacy into domestic space—and as a means of controlling the availability of locally produced material, in the United States in particular. Despite common legal environments, obscenity was policed differently around the British Empire—Deana Heath’s work compares India, Australia, and Ireland and notes Australia’s insistence on defining itself as a stricter censor than Britain, defending Anglo-Saxon standards in the Asia Pacific, and also than India, where the free circulation of birth control information can be seen as an aspect of eugenic interest from the West in restricting population growth.49 After unrest over the Partition of Bengal in 1905, however, the offense of sedition became more urgent than obscenity. In court case after court case, “what had appeared as the harmless beginnings of a modern literature stood condemned as revolutionary agitation … Literature now looked dangerous, because it was no longer restricted to the literati: it was spreading to the masses.”50

Spectacle Censorship

Dominick LaCapra’s 1982 study of Flaubert’s 1857 trial established some of the terms within which the literary trial is now discussed, emphasizing a court’s capacity to explode a prosecuted book’s literary frame, occasioning slippage from the offense at issue to proximate social formations vulnerable to challenge.51 Shifting the emphasis, with Judith Butler, to performance, Adam Parkes later used “the theater of censorship” to describe the public impact of the sensational English-language obscenity book trials conducted through the first half of the 20th century. He glosses the phrase as “the social space in which texts and authors became subject to public censure and legal action—so that the culture of censorship itself [is] implicitly put on trial,” as it was for William Hone.52 Beginning with Oscar Wilde’s trial of 1895, Parkes outlines, as have Laura Doan, Celia Marshik, and Elisabeth Ladenson, the developing furors that followed the U.K. and U.S. bans, prosecution, or public trials of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (1915), James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), and Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928), as well as the pivotal suppression of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, also in 1928, and its 1960 trial in London. Doan emphasizes the role of the incitement of the British press; Marshik demonstrates that modernist literature was written to push the boundaries of sexual expression but also with those boundaries clearly in view; and Ladenson examines the impact of sensational trials, from Madam Bovary’s to Lolita’s, on generating audience interest and reaction.53 Each of these trials shows how the transparent use of public prosecution can produce rather than (merely) suppress literary meaning, and certainly legal and political histories of censorship attend primarily to such case law in articulating change. But as Lisa Sigel argues, this is not the only form of state censorship, and neither has it necessarily been the most effective. Sigel distinguishes between what she terms “spectacular” and “everyday” censorship54—the former evident in such show trials, the latter referring to the overlapping legislative and administrative environments Sigel sees in interwar Britain, which enabled pervasive surveillance and control over many forms of communication, usually without public notice and often in secret.

Parkes attends to the performative elements of these sensational censorship trials, but what was happening to real theater? British theater has a long history of regulation; in 1737, a licensing act gave statutory powers to the Lord Chamberlain that required submitting plays for approval before performance and restricted spoken drama in London to a tight inner-city circle. These powers were delegated to an official examiner of plays and extended nationally in 1843. In the 1890s, George Bernard Shaw, having been subjected to bans, raged against the system: “Shame, folly and ridicule, and mischief are the fruits of it, and the sole possible ones.”55 That his plays were more successful in print during that decade demonstrates a productive interplay between stage and page fueled by regulation, and Shaw’s later prominence as a critic and political figure was entwined with his notoriety as a playwright. Theater licensing laws in many countries have operated as de facto censorship powers, though was under laws regulating public speech that Queensland police took to the stage to arrest an actor for uttering the obscene closing line of Alex Buzo’s Norm and Ahmed in 1969. Laura Bradley’s work on theater censorship in the German Democratic Republic reveals a complex of bureaucratic regulation combined with community accommodation, with the mechanisms of censorship embedded thoroughly within a political culture yet committed to democratizing drama, in ways that were at once highly repressive as well as open to manipulation.56

Wartime censorship has been discussed separately from the history of arts and literary censorship, but its effect (after the British first introduced modern military censorship during the Crimean War in 1856,57 and particularly through its mainstreaming during the “total war” model of the two World Wars) was to implement extensive bureaucracies for censorship, seamlessly integrated into modern government and civil administration, in ways that institutionalized control of communication, including literary, filmic, and other cultural forms. As it had in pre-Revolutionary France, militarized modernity facilitated expansive bureaucratic censorship administrations in colonial India, postcolonial Australia, and pre-apartheid and apartheid South Africa. Like the regimes in midcentury Italy, Japan, and Germany, Salazar’s Estado Novo in Portugal employed fascist ideologies and military control in exerting prepublication press censorship and close regulation of book distribution, in its case from 1933 until 1974, relying also, as did the small economies of the Eastern Bloc, on control of limited paper stock. One of Salazar’s memorable declarations emphasized the totalizing aim: “only that which is known to exist politically exists; politically, that which seems to exist does indeed exist.”58 Cold War imperatives produced the most expansive of 20th-centurybook censorship regimes: the USSR’s spekstrahn—secret collections of forbidden publications numbered in the millions. And the writers banned and imprisoned by European communism defined not only the character of Western responses but also the character of state socialism’s defeat. Since the opening of Eastern Bloc archives through the 1990s and 2000s, we know much more about how these centralized, prepublication systems worked as positivist forms of regulation that aimed to expand reading as well as control and powerfully direct it: witness the German Democratic Republic’s conception of itself as a leseland, or “reading nation.”59

Far from distinguishing totalitarianism from democracy, moreover, such everyday or secret and pervasive civil censorship has been a feature of many 20th-century democratic states as well, in some cases actively targeting literature, film, and publications. Between 1933 and 1971, for example, the Australian Literature Censorship Board banned more than 510 titles, perhaps 20 to 30 of which attracted sustained public attention. During the same period, without reference to the board, Australian Customs banned over 15,000 more.60 The division reflected a distinction between publications with and without literary or scholarly merit, the latter banned with no reference to expertise or close parliamentary oversight and no public record, while the relatively large number of titles that were subject to customs control is a reflection of settler Australia’s import culture and restrictive imperial trade agreements. As Sigel argues for the British case, without including such suppressed histories of the lowbrow in recounting liberal censorship, we mistake not only the extent and aims of regulation but also its effective success. Where multiple forms of legislative control and delegated bureaucratic regulation overlap in effecting pervasive but unreported censorship, from postal and vagrant acts to telecommunication interference and Internet licensing, we are justified in describing such systems as regimes. In this regard, Britain and those colonial countries that inherited and bolstered its measures shared effective aims with the comprehensive prepublication, centralized and secret censorship undertaken by 20th-century state socialism. This kind of cultural censorship has been constitutive and not merely regulatory—aiming to control national cultures, forge ideal citizens, and determine national morality.61 The greatest difference, in the main, is the degree of transparency given such regimes, and the tolerance of criticism, protest, and dissent within them.

One of the other differences is the relative importance given to obscenity censorship—the principal concern for much 20th-century Western (including, notably, apartheid South African) censorship. The most significant shift in 20th-century book banning was the lifting of blanket bans on the expression of homosexuality or same-sex desire in any form.62 Once the most dangerous category of literary immorality for many repressive regimes, expressed in the jailing of Oscar Wilde, the classification of work such as Pierre Louys’s poetry and Zola’s Nana as banned pornography, the harassment of Gore Vidal, and prohibitions on lesbian pulp, its manifestation, literary or otherwise, continues. Non-heteronormative literary culture remains assertively banned in some parts of the world. “Gay history extends along a road largely lit by the bonfires of the censors,” declares Alberto Manguel.63 The major shifts in American literary censorship were enacted through fights over obscenity, in mid-20th-century court cases in which literature’s claim to redeeming value and social good was seen to distinguish it from valueless pornography. Again, it was the conventionally lowbrow that proved the key battleground, in fights brought by mail-order companies and small publishers. Still, the much-banned novels of Henry Miller among others were at stake. The 1960 court case brought by Penguin to free Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the United Kingdom is another key spectacle case that marked social transformations in the literary representation of sex, following a less-publicized trial against Grove Press that freed it for sale in the United States and three-part legal proceedings in Japan against the first Japanese translation.64 Though it took another five years before it was available in Australia or New Zealand, the exoneration of Lawrence’s book was an iconic marker of seismic shifts for readers worldwide.

Contemporary Censorship

Shifts away from systematic censorship of literature in the Western world in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s paralleled shifts in the relative prominence of literature: it is no longer the case that spectacle censorship of major literary works is the main public index of state regulation. Moreover, free speech and freedom of expression arguments have shrunk to libertarian frames, with their concomitant problems with government moderation of competing social interests, while feminist and anti-racist critiques of the model have introduced significant legal protection for minority speech and forms of social dignity deemed vulnerable to harmful expression. The formerly titled “World Wide Web” has changed global communication immeasurably, but the much-vaunted free utopias of the Internet’s first versions have not survived the imposition of nation-shaped regulation and the pervasive capitalization of content delivery. In global cultures of mass literacy, transmedial communicative immediacy, and complex platform diversification, literature has become a niched and traditional cultural form that is still licensed to provoke and challenge.

It is not the case that literary censorship has disappeared from the globe, however: far from it. A list of contemporary writers who have been banned, imprisoned, or murdered is still a list with which to conjure familiar forms of tyranny: Nadine Gordimer, Wole Soyinka, Ariel Dorfman, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dario Fo, Juan Goytisolo, Judy Blume, Nawal Saadawi, Salman Rushdie, Yaşar Kemal, Anna Politkovskaya. Chinese literary critic Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010: he remains imprisoned in China and his prize unacknowledged. The Arab states, including Egypt, continue entangled in their long and varied histories of state censorship: cultural repression has been a key feature of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, even as the arts are one of the most prominent forums for resistant Iranian expression, within and outside the country. Dror Green’s story “The Train of Wonders,” from his 1989 collection Stories of the Intifada, compares the detention of Palestine civilians on a bus with the trains carrying prisoners to Nazi death camps, and is an example of literature that has been banned from the Occupied Territories by Israeli authorities. In contemporary India, censorship of film and literature is rising, and violent attacks on writers and film makers, including murders, are becoming more frequent.65

Any summary of contemporary literary censorship is confronted by a continuous feed of instances and case studies, despite the many legislative environments in which literary merit has protections from state interference: globalization has meant simultaneous accounting from numerous parts of the world. A brief national ban on a young adult novel in New Zealand, Ted Dawes’s Into the River, was met in 2015 with outrage and increased sales, and prompted one commentator to again revivify Aeropagitica’s Christian liberal case for the free circulation of ideas, in order to defend use of “the C-word” against Christian lobbying.66 The 2015 publication of a chapter of Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji’s Istikhdam al-Hayah (The Use of Life) in a literary journal where he works occasioned its prosecution under Egypt’s increasingly strict press laws, despite the novel having been approved already by thecustoms censorship board. (It was printed in Lebanon.)This case throws into relief the widening gap between literary and other forms of communicative media: Jumana Bayeh argues that the political role of literature in the Arab Spring has been widely underestimated, while the number of journalists imprisoned in Egypt continues to grow.67 Naji, with writers such as Youseff Rakha, Nael Eltoukhy, and Mohamed Rabie, has been able to exploit the relative freedom given to literature to challenge contemporary Egyptian morality. Declares Al Jazeera, “Their works, with plenty of sex and scatology, capture the grit of the present while also redeploying a classical Arabic language that has been largely erased from literary use.”68

Literary censorship is a key part of China’s vast regulation of the media sphere, aiming finally, as numbers of Western commentators argue, for compliant self-censorship: it is a constitutive regime.69 Besides bans on Chinese books that flout the unexpressed guidelines, from writers such as Liao Yiwu and Lian Yianke, China also bans uncounted numbers of non-Chinese publications, including from the diaspora, such as Singaporean Australian writer Lau Siew Mei’s Playing Madam Mao (2000), which condemns 1980s Singaporean censorship, itself an expression of the “Asian values” of long-serving president Lee Kwan Yew. Recently, Hong Kong booksellers dealing in publications critical of the central government have been removed from their shops and even from Thailand, provoking criticism and street protests, before reappearing to speak publicly from police custody in mainland China. Peter Hessler’s account of censorship of his work in China emphasizes the close and dependent relationship between translation and censorship—a sizeable topic of study in its own right—but also the necessarily close complicity between the production of literature and regulated control in everyday forms of literary culture.70 In this respect, contemporary Chinese censorship exhibits parallels with the pervasive and productive characteristics of former communist censorship regimes in Europe. How closely writing lives with its censor measures, perhaps, what literature still likes to call freedom.

Review of the Literature

As detailed above, censorship has been a topic of concern to thinkers since the ancient world, and polemicists and pamphleteers have agitated for and against it in large numbers. Literary or cultural scholarship on censorship is also diversely voluminous, but contemporary work can be seen to be following five directions.71 In the wake of Foucault, the “new censorship scholarship” of U.S. critics in the 1990s critiqued the Manichean divide between free speech and regulation, and pursued poststructuralist interest in the determining ability of regulation to provoke discourse.72 Key works from Judith Butler and Pierre Bourdieu provide the theoretical underpinning for a position that accepts the constitutive role of censorship in guaranteeing speech.73 This has provoked the rereading of much English-language censorship history via the productive dynamic between regulation and speech, from Tudor-Stuart censorship and Jacobean debates to the “censorship dialectic” in British modernism identified by Celia Marshik.74

In the wake of the opening up of the archives of Eastern Bloc censors, however, this position has been challenged by scholars attendant to the realities of centralized prepublication regimes of control, in contrast to mundane expression, exploring the complex ways constitutive communist regulation has been inhabited.75 This archival turn has been matched by revelatory new work from book and theatre historians using digital humanities tools to mass, quantify, and render comparable the records of censorship regimes from many different countries and periods. Inspired by Robert Darnton’s assessments of the ancien régime, this direction has produced studies and in some cases datasets on pre-Revolutionary France, 18th-century English theatre, colonial India, apartheid South Africa, the German Democratic Republic, 20th-century Australia, fascist Italy, imperial Japan, and WWII Britain, among others.76 In addition, the American Library Association has compiled a dataset registering challenges to books in the United States since 1990, though the data are not searchable by researchers.77 This new work dovetails with a developing attention to comparative approaches to literary censorship, moving outside the determining model of a national regime, as the United Kingdom and United States reconsider world literature approaches following provocations from their empires.78 The transnational frames of this research show off in new relief the bulwark that censorship presents to any vaunted vision of a freely communicative global culture, inherited from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and now everywhere in sight and everywhere frustrated, diversified, complex, impossible.

American Library Association (ALA) Guide to Researching Banned and Challenged Books in the United States.

American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) Database of Frequently Challenged Books Banned in Australia: Federal Book Censorship 1900–1973. Edited by Marita Bullock and Nicole Moore. AustLit 2008. A database recording bans on literary titles by the Australian Literature Censorship Board under Customs legislation.

Beacon for Freedom of Expression: A database compiling information on book bannings from around the world and through history.

The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe Project, 1769–1794. Edited by Simon Burrows, Mark Curran, Vincent Hiribarren, Sarah Kattau, and Henry Merivale, May 6, 2014.Find this resource:

Index on Censorship.

International Freedom of Expression.

The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences, Peter D. McDonald’s database of decisions for just over 450 South African titles during the apartheid era.

MOI Online: A Publishing and Communication History of the Ministry of Information. Edited by Simon Eliot, Simon Tanner, Alejandro Giacometti, Henry Irving, and José Miguel Viera. Institute of English Studies, Kings College, London.Find this resource:

PEN International.

Further Reading

Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge, 1997.Find this resource:

Coetzee, J. M. Giving Offence: Essays on Censorship. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1996.Find this resource:

Darnton, Robert. The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.Find this resource:

DeGrazia, Edward. Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and Its Assault on Genius. New York: Vintage, 1993.Find this resource:

Dutton, Richard. Mastering the Revels: The Regulation and Censorship of English Renaissance Drama. London: Macmillan, 1991.Find this resource:

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1. Translated by Robert Hurley. London: Random House, 1978.Find this resource:

Hunt, Lynn, ed. The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity 1500–1800. New York: Zone Books, 1993.Find this resource:

Jansen, Sue Curry. Censorship: The Knot That Binds Power and Knowledge. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.Find this resource:

Marcus, Stephen. The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-nineteenth-century England. New York: Basic Books, 1966.Find this resource:

Müller, Beate, ed. Censorship and Cultural Regulation in the Modern Age. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004.Find this resource:

Post, Robert C., ed. Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 1998.Find this resource:


(1.) Sue Curry Jansen, Censorship: The Knot that Binds Power and Knowledge (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

(2.) Geoff Kemp, “Introduction,” in Censorship Moments: Reading Texts in the History of Censorship and Freedom of Expression, ed. Geoff Kemp (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 1–8.

(3.) Karl Marx, “The Role of the Press as Critic of Government Officials,” defense speech at trial of Feb 1849, in Karl Marx on Freedom of the Press and Censorship, ed. Saul Padover (New York: McGraw Hill, 1974), 144; quoted in Jansen, 93.

(4.) Lee Bollinger, “Censorship,” in The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World, ed. Joel Krieger (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), online.

(5.) Robert Faris, Stephanie Wang, and John Palfrey, “Censorship 2.0,” Innovations 3.2 (2008): 165–187, 170.

(6.) See the otherwise opposed entries on “Censorship” by Lee Bollinger and Jeremy A. Rabkin in The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World, ed. Joel Krieger (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), online.

(7.) Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley (London: Random House, 1978), 27, 34.

(8.) Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997), 139. See also Nicole Moore, “Censorship Is,” Australian Humanities Review 54.3 (May 2013): 49.

(9.) Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, ed. John B Thompson, trans. Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson (Oxford: Polity, 1992), 37.

(10.) Beate Müller, “Censorship and Cultural Regulation: Mapping the Territory,” Censorship and Cultural Regulation in the Modern Age (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004), 1–32, 9–11.

(11.) Jansen, Censorship, 61.

(12.) Leonard W. Levy, Emergence of a Free Press (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 3.

(13.) Levy, Emergence, 4.

(14.) Cornelius Tacitus, Alfred J. Church, and William J. Brodribb, Annals of Tacitus: Translated into English with Notes and Maps (London: Macmillan, 1906), book 14, 277; quoted in Jansen, Censorship, 41.

(15.) Peter Sydney Derow, “Censor,” The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4 ed., eds. Simon Hornblower, Antony Spawforth, and Esther Eidinow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), online.

(16.) Jansen, Censorship, 40.

(17.) Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 28–29.

(18.) Margaret Canovan, “Politics as Culture: Hannah Arendt and the Public Realm,” in Hanna Arendt: Critical Essays, eds. L. P. Hinchman and S. K. Hinchman (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), 179.

(19.) Arendt, The Human Condition, 67.

(20.) Arendt, The Human Condition, 65.

(21.) Levy, Emergence, 3.

(23.) W. Ullman, Medieval Political Thought (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1975), 13.

(24.) D. M. Loades, “The Theory and Practice of Censorship in Sixteenth Century England,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 24.141 (1974): 141–157, 142.

(25.) Quoted in Loades, “The Theory and Practice of Censorship,” 143.

(26.) Debora Shuger, Censorship and Cultural Sensibility: The Regulation of Language in Tudor-Stuart England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).

(27.) Quoted in Jansen, Censorship, 45.

(28.) Levy, Emergence, 5.

(29.) G. Elton, Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 222.

(30.) L. Levy, Blasphemy: Verbal Offence against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie (Chapel Hill: North Carolina Press, 1995), 96.

(31.) Levy, Blasphemy, 108.

(32.) Censorship entry in Stanley Wells, A Dictionary of Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), online.

(33.) Michael Dobson, Henry IV part 2 entry, The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, 2d ed., eds. Michael Dobson, Stanley Wells, Will Sharpe, and Erin Sullivan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), online.

(34.) Richard Burt, Licensed by Authority: Ben Jonson and the Discourses of Censorship (London: Cornell University Press, 1993), 86.

(35.) J. B. Thompson, The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 1988), 129.

(36.) Lin Yutang, A History of the Press and Public Opinion in China (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, Ltd., 1936), 167–179.

(37.) Shuger, Censorship and Cultural Sensibility, 2.

(38.) Robert Darnton, “Censorship, A Comparative View: France 1789, East Germany 1989,” Historical Change and Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures, ed. Olwen Hufton (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 101–130, 125.

(39.) Cyndia Clegg, Press Censorship in Jacobean England (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 20.

(40.) Clara Tuite, “Not Guilty: Negative Capability and the Trials of William Hone,” in Censorship and the Limits of the Literary: A Global View, ed. Nicole Moore (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), 44. See also discussion in Joss Marsh, Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

(41.) Cf. Nicole Moore, The Censor’s Library: Uncovering the Lost History of Australia’s Banned Books (Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2012), 20–22.

(42.) Pramoedya Ananta Toer, “Manuscripts Banned and Destroyed,” in An Embarrassment of Tyrannies: 25 Years of Index on Censorship, eds. W. L. Webb and Rose Bell (London: Victor Gollancz, 1997), 94–98, 94.

(43.) Robert Darnton, “Literary Surveillance in the British Raj: The Contradictions of Liberal Imperialism,” Book History 4 (2001): 133–176, 138.

(44.) Pearce J. Carefoot, “Censorship in Canada,” Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing (Hamilton, ON: McMaster University Library, 2009).

(45.) M. J. D. Roberts, “Morals, Arts and the Law: The Passing of the Obscene Publications Act, 1857,” Victorian Studies 28.4 (1985): 609–629.

(46.) Regina v. Hicklin, (1868) 3 L.R.Q. B. 360 [Hicklin], 371.

(47.) Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, trans. Susan Emanuel (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), 75–81.

(48.) Moore, The Censor’s Library, 44–45.

(49.) Deana Heath, “Purity, Obscenity, and the Making of an Imperial Censorship System,” in Media and the British Empire, ed. Chandrika Kaul (Houndsmill: Palgrave, 2006), 160–173, 164–165; cf. Moore, The Censor’s Library, 27–28, 53.

(50.) Darnton, “Literary Surveillance,” 58, 56.

(51.) Dominick LaCapra, Madame Bovary on Trial (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982), 31.

(52.) Adam Parkes, Modernism and the Theatre of Censorship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 11.

(53.) Laura Doan, Fashioning Sapphism: The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); Celia Marshik, British Modernism and Censorship (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and Elisabeth Ladenson, Dirt for Art’s Sake: Books on Trial from Madame Bovary to Lolita (New York: Cornell University Press, 2007).

(54.) Lisa Sigel, “Censorship in Interwar Britain: Obscenity, Spectacle and the Workings of the Liberal State,” Journal of Social History 45.1 (2011): 61–83.

(55.) G. Bernard Shaw, “The Censorship of the Stage in England,” The North American Review 169.513 (August 1899): 251–262, 261.

(56.) Laura Bradley, Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship, 1961–1989 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

(57.) Phillip Knightley, “Here Is the Patriotically Censored News,” in An Embarrassment of Tyrannies: 25 Years of Index on Censorship, eds. W. L. Webb and Rose Bell (London: Victor Gollancz, 1997), 162–166, 162.

(58.) Nelson Ribeiro, “Censorship and Scarcity: Controlling New and Old Media in Portugal, 1936–1945,” Media History 21.1 (2015): 74–88.

(59.) Christoph Links, “Leseland DDR: Bedingungen, Hintergründe, Veränderungen,” in Friedensstaat, Leseland, Sportnation, ed. Thomas Groβ‎bölting (Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag, 2009), 196–207, 196–197; see also Nicole Moore and Christina Spittel, “South by East: World Literature’s Cold War Compass,” Australian Literature in the German Democratic Republic: Reading through the Iron Curtain (London: Anthem, 2016), 1–32.

(60.) Marita Bullock and Nicole Moore, “Introduction,” in Banned in Australia: Federal Book Censorship 1900–1973 AustLit, 2008).

(61.) Nicole Moore, “Censorship Is,” 55.

(62.) Nicole Moore, “Introduction,” in Censorship and the Limits of the Literary: A Global View, ed. Nicole Moore (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 1–10, 7.

(63.) Alberto Manguel, “Daring to Speak One’s Name,” in An Embarrassment of Tyrannies: 25 Years of Index on Censorship, eds. W. L. Webb and Rose Bell (London: Victor Gollancz, 1997), 241–250, 243.

(64.) Elisabeth Ladenson, Dirt for Art’s Sake, 131.

(65.) S. Shankar, “Poetry and the Curse: On Censorship in India,” Words Without Borders, October 15, 2015.

(66.) Allan Drew, “The C-word,” Overland 221 (Summer 2015).

(67.) Jumana Bayeh, “Egypt’s Facebook Revolution: Arab Diaspora Literature and Censorship in the Homeland,” in Censorship and the Limits of the Literary, ed. Nicole Moore (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 219–231.

(68.) Marcia Lynx Qualey, “Yes, Ahmed Naji is a novelist,” Al Jazeera (November 11, 2015).

(69.) Lynda Ng, “China’s Elusive Truths: Censorship, Value and Literature in the Internet Age,” in Censorship and the Limits of the Literary, ed. Nicole Moore (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 233–246, 235.

(70.) Peter Hessler, “Letter from Beijing: Travels with My Censor: A Chinese Book Tour,” New Yorker (March 9, 2015), 34–40.

(71.) Cf. Nicole Moore, “Introduction,” 2–4.

(72.) Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality.

(73.) Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art.

(74.) Michael Holquist, “Corrupt Originals: The Paradox of Censorship,” PMLA 109.1 (1994): 14–25. Richard Burt, ed., The Administration of Aesthetics: Censorship, Political Criticism, and the Public Sphere (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994); Debora Shuger, Censorship and Cultural Sensibility; and Celia Marshik, British Modernism and Censorship.

(75.) Beate Müller, “Censorship and Cultural Regulation”; M. Cornis-Pope and J. Neubauer, eds., History of the Literary Cultures of East Central Europe, vol. 3 (Amsterdam: John Benjamin, 2007); Laura Bradley, Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship; and Siegfried Lokatis and Simone Barck, Zensurspiele: HeimlicheLiteraturgeschichten der DDR (Halle: MDV, 2008).

(76.) Robert Darnton, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984); The Forbidden Bestsellers of Prerevolutionary France (London: W. W. Norton), 1996; Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature (London: W. W. Norton, 2015); cf.; S. Burrows, M. Curran, V. Hiribarren, S. Kattau, and H. Merivale, The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe Project, 1769–1794, May 6, 2014; Eighteenth Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage (Marlborough, U.K.: Adam Matthew Digital, 2016); Anjali Arondekar, For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); and Peter D. McDonald, The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and Its Cultural Consequences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), and Marita Bullock and Nicole Moore, Banned in Australia: A Bibliography of Federal Book Censorship (AustLit, 2008); Guido Bonsaver, Censorship and Literature in Fascist Italy (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2007); Jonathan Abel, Redacted: The Archives of Censorship in Transwar Japan (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2012); and Simon Eliot, Simon Tanner, Alejandro Giacometti, Henry Irving, and José Miguel Viera, MOI Online: A Publishing and Communication History of the Ministry of Information (London: Institute of English Studies).

(78.) Teresa Seruya and Maria Lin Moniz, eds., Translation and Censorship in Different Times and Landscapes (Newcastle, U.K.: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008); Catherine O’Leary and Alberto Lázaro, eds., Censorship Across Borders: The Reception of English Literature in Twentieth-Century Europe (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, U.K.: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011); Deana Heath, Obscenity and the Politics of Moral Regulation in Britain, India and Australia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Francesca Billiani, ed., Modes of Censorship and Translation: National Contexts and Diverse Media (London: Routledge, 2014); and Nicole Moore, ed. Censorship and the Limits of the Literary: A Global View (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015).