Banned Books: Ideology, Suppression, and Censorship
FYS 003, CRN 6453
“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions.” Justice William O. Douglas
This first year seminar will explore, examine, and analyze the practice, function, and ideology of what is commonly known as “book banning.” Often, books are challenged with the “best intentions”—to protect others, frequently children, from “difficult” ideas and information. In order to understand these practices and the ideology behind them, we will read banned books and challenged books as well as a plethora of essays and articles on the topic. The course will focus on the social and cultural ideologies that motivate the restriction of reading materials, primarily in the United States. Throughout the semester, we will try to answer various questions about censorship: What kinds of materials are considered “offensive?” Why do some groups (or individuals) try to restrict access to certain books? What are the motivations of these groups, and what are the functions of censorship? We will also grapple with questions of literary and social value, feminism, sexuality, language, and representation.
Primary texts include Forever (Judy Blume), Annie on My Mind (Nancy Garden), and The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood). Course requirements include weekly writing (in and outside of class), a midterm and a final project.