Banned Books On-line
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 94 16:41:52 PST
Subject: Banned Books On-line
[This is an ascii dump of the initial World Wide Web page of an exhibit about
censorship by John Ockerbloom. In an introduction to it he says:
The exhibit is based at Carnegie Mellon University, where the
administration recently announced the university would censor numerous
newsgroups (including text-based groups) related to sexuality, citing
fears of legal liability as its reason. The exhibit is particularly
appropriate now, as a reminder of the continuing struggle for free
expression and the increasingly important role of computer-based forms
There is undoubtedly more material I can add to the page. If you know
of additional resources or information I can add (preferably with
references), or you have suggestions, please write to me at
If you don't have access to WWW, but you wish to follow up on any of the
references in this page, you can do so by email. It's very easy. Simply send
a message to "firstname.lastname@example.org" with a subject line of: "(URL:
http://www.cs.cmu.edu:8001/Web/People/spok/banned-books.html)" and in the body
of the message include the numbers of the references. For example:
Subject: (URL: http://www.cs.cmu.edu:8001/Web/People/spok/banned-books.html)
2 3 13
This message will get you information on Ulysses, Candide, and The Age of
Reason by return mail. Way cool, no?
Banned Books On-line
BANNED BOOKS ON-LINE
Welcome to this special exhibit of books that have been the objects of
censorship or censorship attempts. The books featured here, ranging from
Ulysses to Little Red Riding Hood, have been selected from the indexes on
the On-line Books Page.
This page is a work in progress, and more works may be added to this page
over time. Please inform email@example.com of any new material that can be
Books Suppressed or Censored by Legal Authorities
Ulysses by James Joyce was recently praised by CMU English professor and
vice-provost Erwin Steinberg. (Steinberg also defended Carnegie Mellon's
declaration to delete alt.sex and some 80 other newsgroups, claiming they
were legally obligated to do so.) Ulysses was barred from the United States
as obscene for 15 years, and was seized by U.S Postal Authorities in 1918
and 1930. The lifting of the ban in 1933 came only after advocates fought
for the right to publish the book. (Please don't use this on-line copy if
you are in the US, where it is still copyrighted.)
In 1930, U.S. Customs seized Harvard-bound copies of Candide, Voltaire's
critically hailed satire, claiming obscenity. Two Harvard professors
defended the work, and it was later admitted in a different edition. In
1944, the US Post Office demanded the omission of Candidefrom a mailed
Concord Books catalog.
John Cleland's Fanny Hill(also known as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure)
has been frequently suppressed since its initial publication in 1749. This
story of a prostitute is known both for its frank sexual descriptions and
its parodies of contemporary literature, such as Daniel Defoe's Moll
Flanders. The U.S Supreme Court finally cleared it from obscenity charges in
Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio's
Decameron, and various editions of The Arabian Nightswere all banned
from the U.S. mails under the Comstock Law of 1873. Officially known as
the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act, this law banned the mailing of "lewd",
"indecent", "filthy", or "obscene" materials. According to Marjorie Heins,
the law remains on the books today, though a section banning information
about birth control has been deleted. The anti-war Lysistrata was banned
again in 1967 in Greece, which was then controlled by a military junta.
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman's famous collection of poetry, was
withdrawn in Boston in 1881, after the District Attorney threatened criminal
prosecution for the use of explicit language in some poems. The work was
later published in Philadelphia.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's autobiography Confessionswas banned by U.S.
Customs in 1929 as injurious to public morality. His philosophical works
were also banned in the USSR in 1935, and some were placed on the Catholic
Church's Index of Prohibited Books in the 18th century.
Thomas Paine, best known for his writings supporting American independence,
was indicted for treason in England in 1792 for his work The Rights of
Man, defending the French Revolution. More than one English publisher
was also prosecuted for printing The Age of Reason, where Paine argues
for Deism and against Christianity and Atheism.
The Bible and The Qu'ran were both removed from numerous libraries
and banned from import in the Soviet Union from 1926 to 1956. Many editions
of the Bible have also been banned and burned by civil and religious
authorities throughout history.
Unfit for Schools and Minors?
An illustrated edition of "Little Red Riding Hood" was banned in two
California school districts in 1989. Following the original Little
Red-Cap story from Grimm's Fairy Tales, the book shows the heroine
taking food and wine to her grandmother. The school districts cited
concerns about the use of alcohol in the story.
Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were excluded from the
juvenile sections of the Brooklyn Public library (among other libraries),
and banned from the library in Concord, MA, home of Henry Thoreau. The File
Room summary also notes that Huckleberry Finnhas been dropped from high
school reading lists due to its repeated use of the word "nigger",
John T. Scopes was convicted in 1925 of teaching the evolutionary theory of
Darwin's Origin of Species in his high school class. The Tennessee law
prohibiting teaching evolution theory remained on the books until 1967.
John Locke's philosophical Essay Concerning Human Understanding was
expressly forbidden to be taught at Oxford University in 1701. The French
Translation was also placed on the Index.
Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice was eliminated from high school
curricula in Buffalo and Manchester, NY, in 1931, due to its portrayal of
the Jewish character Shylock. Shakespeare's plays have also often been
"cleansed" of crude words and phrases. Thomas Bowdler's efforts in his 1818
"Family Shakespeare" gave rise to the word "bowdlerize".
More Censorship Information
This exhibit only represents books that are available on-line. For a more
comprehensive review of censorship through history, see The File Room
exhibit at the University of Illinois, particularly its literature
Stop CMU CensorshipThis exhibit is based at Carnegie Mellon, where the
administration recently decided to remove over 80 newsgroups on sexual
matters, claiming that it was required to by law. Since then, there has
been widespread protest in the community. The university has partly backed
down, and delayed action on the text-based groups, but has yet to formulate
a clear policy for protecting electronic free expression rights on campus.
See the Censorhip at CMU page for more details.
Off-line, see Banned Books: 387 B.C. to 1978 A.D by Anne Haight, updated by
Chandler Grannis, for a long list of classic books that have been banned or
challenged through history. Accounts on books challenged in U.S. schools and
libraries in the last ten years can be found in Banned in the U.S.A. by
Herbert Foerstel. Published in 1994, this book documents attempts to ban
numerous books, including critically acclaimed works by Twain, Steinbeck,
L'Engle, Blume, Dahl, and Vonnegut.
Information for this page was gathered from The File Room Archive the
Academic American Encyclopedia, and the two books cited above.
The on-line books come from the CMU English Server, the Internet Wiretap
collection, The Eris Project, Columbia University's Project
Bartleby, Trent University's Gopher server, and Robert Stockton's
HTML literature collection. Some of the works were originally provided
by Project Gutenberg. All listings are from the on-line books page
firstname.lastname@example.org (Last updated 14-Nov-94)
*** References from this document ***
© 1994 Peter Langston