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Censors at Work: How States Shaped…
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Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Robert Darnton

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1521177,284 (3.2)None
With his uncanny ability to spark life in the past, Robert Darnton re-creates three historical worlds in which censorship shaped literary expression in distinctive ways. In eighteenth-century France, censors, authors, and booksellers collaborated in making literature by navigating the intricate culture of royal privilege. Even as the king's censors outlawed works by Voltaire, Rousseau, and other celebrated Enlightenment writers, the head censor himself incubated Diderot's great Encyclopedie by hiding the banned project's papers in his Paris townhouse. Relationships at court trumped principle in the Old Regime. Shaken by the Sepoy uprising in 1857, the British Raj undertook a vast surveillance of every aspect of Indian life, including its literary output. Years later the outrage stirred by the British partition of Bengal led the Raj to put this knowledge to use. Seeking to suppress Indian publications that it deemed seditious, the British held hearings in which literary criticism led to prison sentences. Their efforts to meld imperial power and liberal principle fed a growing Indian opposition. In Communist East Germany, censorship was a component of the party program to engineer society. Behind the unmarked office doors of Ninety Clara-Zetkin Street in East Berlin, censors developed annual plans for literature in negotiation with high party officials and prominent writers. A system so pervasive that it lodged inside the authors' heads as self-censorship, it left visible scars in the nation's literature. By rooting censorship in the particulars of history, Darnton's revealing study enables us to think more clearly about efforts to control expression past and present.… (more)
Member:Dgesq
Title:Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature
Authors:Robert Darnton
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2014), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Fiction
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Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature by Robert Darnton (Author) (2014)

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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. ( )
1 vote dono421846 | Dec 27, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Darnton, RobertAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sené, Jean-FrançoisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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INTRODUCTION

Où se situe le nord dans le cyberespace ? Nous ne disposons pas de boussole pour relever notre position dans l’éther non cartographié au-­delà de la galaxie Gutenberg, et la difficulté n’est pas simplement d’ordre cartographique et technologique. Elle est morale et politique. [...]
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With his uncanny ability to spark life in the past, Robert Darnton re-creates three historical worlds in which censorship shaped literary expression in distinctive ways. In eighteenth-century France, censors, authors, and booksellers collaborated in making literature by navigating the intricate culture of royal privilege. Even as the king's censors outlawed works by Voltaire, Rousseau, and other celebrated Enlightenment writers, the head censor himself incubated Diderot's great Encyclopedie by hiding the banned project's papers in his Paris townhouse. Relationships at court trumped principle in the Old Regime. Shaken by the Sepoy uprising in 1857, the British Raj undertook a vast surveillance of every aspect of Indian life, including its literary output. Years later the outrage stirred by the British partition of Bengal led the Raj to put this knowledge to use. Seeking to suppress Indian publications that it deemed seditious, the British held hearings in which literary criticism led to prison sentences. Their efforts to meld imperial power and liberal principle fed a growing Indian opposition. In Communist East Germany, censorship was a component of the party program to engineer society. Behind the unmarked office doors of Ninety Clara-Zetkin Street in East Berlin, censors developed annual plans for literature in negotiation with high party officials and prominent writers. A system so pervasive that it lodged inside the authors' heads as self-censorship, it left visible scars in the nation's literature. By rooting censorship in the particulars of history, Darnton's revealing study enables us to think more clearly about efforts to control expression past and present.

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