Robert Darnton

discusses

Censors at Work:
How States Shaped Literature

This event includes a book signing

Date

Feb
27
Friday
February 27, 2015
4:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes National Book Critics Circle Award winner and Harvard professor ROBERT DARNTON for a discussion of his latest book, Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature.

In Censors at Work 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.

Robert Darnton
Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and the director of the University Library at Harvard University. His honors include a MacArthur Prize, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the French Legion of Honor. He is the author of The Great Cat Massacre and The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

 

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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Event Series: Friday Forum

Harvard Book Store's Friday Forum series takes place on Friday afternoons during the academic year as a way to highlight scholarly books in a wide range of fields, with a particular focus on local scholars. Friday Forums take place at 3pm in Harvard Book Store.

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