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Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Nicole Gray


E 314L • Banned Books And Novel Ideas

34655 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm FAC 10
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Instructor:  Gray, N            Areas:  -- / A

Unique #:  34655            Flags:  Writing

Semester:  Fall 2012            Restrictions:  n/a

Cross-lists:  n/a            Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites: E 603A, RHE 306, 306Q, or T C 603A.


“Books won't stay banned.  They won't burn.  Ideas won't go to jail.

In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.

The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.”

 ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

Most books fall into obscurity when they’re published. A few, often assigned reading in English courses, rise to fame. But what about the negative responses to book publication over the course of history, which have ranged from burning, to banning, to legal action, violence, and even murder? A whole section of the American Library Association’s website is dedicated to monitoring and publishing book bans across the U.S. Efforts to ban books from school districts, libraries, and bookstores have resulted in legal battles on state and national levels. Citing reasons from obscenity, to political bias, to racial and religious offensiveness, individuals and groups have lobbied to keep books off library shelves and out of the literary marketplace. What is it that can be so threatening about a book? Who challenges books, and who or what are these challenges designed to protect? In this course, we will concentrate on three complex literary works that have been challenged in the United States, considering them in terms of their formal and material characteristics and in the context of how arguments for and against them fit into the long history of American censorship debates.

This course helps students prepare for upper-division classes in English and other disciplines by focusing on close reading and critical writing. It will also introduce formal, historical, and cultural approaches to literary texts. Students will learn how to use the online Oxford English Dictionary as well as other resources essential to literary study.

Texts: William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying; Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems; Toni Morrison, Beloved.

Selections from: John Milton, Areopagitica; Thomas Paine, Rights of Man; Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (with the Comstock Act, under which it was banned); Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass; D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover; Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn; Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.

Requirements & Grading: Three critical essays (2-3 pages): 30%; one (5-6 page) research paper with optional revision: 25%; short assignments, blog posts, and informal writing assignments: 20%; quizzes and classroom participation: 25%.

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