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Censors at Work: How States Shaped…

Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature

by Robert Darnton

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Solid text based upon extensive personal research with archival materials in order to construct an ethnographic description of the use of literary censorship in three settings: monarchical France, colonial India, and communist East Germany. This method allows a more flexible account of the relationship between censorship and the state than what would follow from a simple, static definition of "censorship.

Although the tale is full of specific examples, one is often left with an impression that in order to more fully achieve the admirable intentions a deeper engagement with the materials will be needed. Despite his best intentions, Darnton falls victim to the old adage that "data is not the plural of 'anecdote'". Stories are excellent to illustrate a point, but those points need to be derived from something other than those same stories, otherwise the book collapses into a recursive loop of stories used to illustrate a point derived from the same stories. That is the hard work of ethnography that those untrained in the method can fail to appreciate. This is especially true when one intends to use accounts from unrelated societies as presumptively supporting the same point, but with no sustaining theoretical infrastructure to support such assumptions.

So while he provides an excellent first sketch, there is much work to be done on this question, perhaps by someone else with more appropriate expertise, to put the thesis on more theoretically and empirically helpful grounds. ( )
  dono421846 | Dec 27, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393242293, Hardcover)

A fresh perspective on censorship emerges in this elegant history by a superb conjurer of the past.

A fresh perspective on censorship emerges in this elegant history by a superb conjurer of the past.

With his uncanny ability to spark life in the past, Robert Darnton re-creates three historical worlds in which censorship shaped literary expression. In eighteenth-century France, censors navigated the intricacies of royal privilege in a working collaboration with authors and booksellers on the making of literature. Absolutism operating through negotiation yielded both suppression and protection of some of the great works of the Enlightenment. In nineteenth-century India, the efforts of the British Raj to control “native” literature gave voice to an Indian opposition that exposed the tensions between Britain’s liberal principles and imperial power. And in twentieth-century East Germany, the Communist Party’s attempt to engineer literature actually yielded a range of outcomes from brutal repression to the complex negotiation behind some of the best-known works by German authors.

Censorship emerges not as a simple repression that is everywhere the same but a melding of power and culture grounded in history.

12 illustrations 12 illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:58 -0400)

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