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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Censorship (PG Version) (ENLI11195)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryJohn Milton's Areopagitica (1644) describes two forms of censorship: pre-publication censorship, which Milton rejects as incompatible with English liberty; and destruction of the book after publication, which he holds compatible with English justice. This course studies the ways in which censorship, pre- and post-publication, has been enforced, resisted, and accepted from the seventeenth century to the present day. The operation of the censor is apparent in the prosecution of authors, publishers and booksellers for blasphemy, sedition, and obscenity; but censorship operates just as effectively through editorial intervention and the quiet rejection of offending texts by libraries and bookshops.
Course description We will learn about the economic, social, and legal pressures to which writers and publishers are subject, considering how the threat of censorship influences the formation, production, and reception of literature. We will read a range of texts that have provoked official and unofficial censorship, and texts that articulate and challenge the position of the censor. Throughout the course, we will analyse censorship's construction of vulnerable readers, who, like Don Quixote, the hero of the first novel, become that which they read.

This course will run in the Centre for Research Collections in the University of Edinburgh's Main Library, where students will have the opportunity to examine rare books that have been subject to censorship or were published with the intention of challenging censorship. We will discuss the material properties of texts and learn how censorship operates at various points in the lifecycle of the text, particularly with regard to the production, distribution and reception of literary works.

In this course we will be discussing content that may be retraumatising to some students. We believe in the importance of engaging with this material and so please be assured that we will work with you to ensure you can participate fully and demonstrate your achievement of the learning outcomes of the course, without compromising your wellbeing or your academic development. If you have concerns at any point we invite you to approach the course organiser Dr Katherine Inglis ( to discuss how we can best support you in your work on this course. We affirm that you will be treated with dignity and respect in all discussions and at every stage of the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  4
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 4000 word essay (100%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  3
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 4000 word essay (100%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
-understand the legislative, economic and cultural contexts of censorship;
-discuss the relationship between literary production and censorship, primarily in relation to British fiction, poetry and prose;
-articulate how censorship operates prior to publication, during the publication process, and after publication;
-analyse the impact of censorship on historical and contemporary ideas of the reader.
Reading List
Topics and texts on the course
Please note topics will not necessarily be covered in the order below. Longer texts are marked with an asterisk *. Texts available through LEARN are marked 'LEARN'. Ma Jian's Beijing Coma (2008) can be acquired easily from bookshops. The full resource list for this course can be found on the Library's Resource List site. We encourage you to access the Resource List and review material ahead of class.

Topics to be covered on this course include: theories of censorship, the rhetorical construction of vulnerable readers in writing about and against censorship, licensing systems (print and theatre), and legal frameworks (with particular attention to sedition, blasphemy, obscenity, and defamation in the Anglo-American legal tradition). Students will be able to analyse censorship in relation to racism, misogyny, xenophobia, minoritized sexualities, political dissidence, self-censorship, and writing for young people. The course's approach will enable students to research how specific censorship mechanisms operate at different stages in the life-cycles of books and plays, and how various agents and institutions engage in acts of censorship.

Introduction to censorship: the liberty of the press
*John Milton, Areopagitica (1644) (LEARN).
Eternal Interference: The British Stage, Self-Censorship, and Licensing
*Frances Burney, The Witlings (1780) (LEARN)
*George Bernard Shaw, Mrs Warren's Profession (1893) (LEARN)
Extract from Dominic Shellard and Steve Nicholson. The Lord Chamberlain Regrets' A History of British Theatre Censorship. (2004). 3-11. (LEARN)
Vulnerable readers
Extracts from Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605; 1612); Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Doctor's Wife (1864); George Moore, A Mummer's Wife (1885). (all LEARN).
Blasphemy and radical publishing.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'Queen Mab' (1813; 1821, Carlile edition) (LEARN).
Silencing, Reading, Remembering
Extract from Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, ed. Sara Salih (1831; Penguin, 2004) (LEARN)
Extract from Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) (LEARN)
Extract from Etheridge Knight, ed. Black Voices from Prison (1970) (LEARN)
Toni Morrison, 'The Site of Memory' (1995) (LEARN)
Vulnerability: Researching 'Banned Books' through the American Library Association
Text to be chosen by students from this year's ALA list of banned books.
Perfect Censorship? Dissidence and Dissent
Ma Jian, Beijing Coma (Vintage, 2009)
Pierre Bourdieu. 'Censorship and the Imposition of Form', in Language and Symbolic Power. (1991). 137-59. (LEARN)
Obscenity in Translation.
*Émile Zola, La Terre [The Earth] (1887), trans. Nelson and Rose (Oxford, 2016).
Extracts from Émile Zola, The Soil (London: Vizetelly, 1888); [Henry Vizetelly], Extracts Principally from English Classics: Showing that the Legal Suppression of M. Zola's Novels Would Logically Involve the Bowdlerizing of Some of the Greatest Works in English Literature (London: [Vizetelly], 1888); Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Vol 1. (1978) (LEARN).
Obscenity and 'Inversion': UK vs US legal approaches
Extract from Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928) (LEARN)
UK obscenity proceedings (LEARN)
US obscenity proceedings (LEARN)
Establishing Literary Merit: Obscenity after the Obscene Publications Act 1959
Obscene Publications Act, 1959. (LEARN)
Extracts from C.H. Rolph, ed., The Trial of Lady Chatterley: Regina v. Penguin Books Limited. (1961) (LEARN)

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements PG Version of ENLI10357
Course organiserDr Katherine Inglis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3617
Course secretaryMrs Anne Budo
Tel: (0131 6)50 4161
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