The History of Literary Censorship

For Banned Books Week, our featured review takes a look at censorship through history

Censored : a literary history of subversion and control

By Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis. McGill-Queen’s, 2017
431p index, 9780773551275 $34.95, 9780773551893

Censored : a literary history of subversion and control book cover

This comprehensive look at the scandals, legal debates, and political fallout created by writers from John Cleland to Marjane Satrapi provides a forceful argument for enthusiastically supporting Banned Books Week each fall. Taking a chronological approach, Fellion (independent scholar) and Inglis (English, Univ. of Edinburgh, UK) neatly combine absorbing details about the publication history of 25 texts with a convincing explanation of how suppression has changed—and why it is still going strong. Readers will appreciate the fact that each chapter is solid enough to cover, without overkill, the central issues surrounding the work discussed. Well-chosen illustrations and photographs throughout the book are an added bonus. Where this compendium loses some of its appeal, however, is in its focus on the usual suspects and dependence in spots on material that other volumes have already capably covered. Does one need another reminder that Huck Finn has never been universally worshiped as a hero? How many ways can the story of Lady Chatterley’s Lover passing the so-called Roth test be told? Chapters on more recent books are a valuable addition to the literature, though, so this lovely volume is an excellent choice for fleshing out a conversation on censorship.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.
Reviewer: D. C. Greenwood, Albright College
Subject: Humanities
Choice Issue: May 2018