Censorship of Literature Analysis

At Issue

With literature comes censorship and attempts at constitutional guarantees; legal precedent and common sense have long had to contend with the ever-renewed desire to censor. For example, a bill introduced to the U.S. Congress on April 25, 1991, by a host of statesmen, the Pornography Victims’ Compensation Act of 1991, was aimed at distributors of pornography. The bill caused great concern among educators and librarians because it could have been used against them, depending on how pornography was to be defined. Censorship of literature has included such works as folktales and Mother Goose rhymes. Claims may be made that such literature is pornographic.

At issue, then, are such basic values as the freedom to read, to exchange ideas, and to think for oneself. In the United States, such issues involve the First Amendment to the Constitution. Such freedoms require a continual vigilance in order to keep them vital. These freedoms, which may, at first glance, seem granted and long since established, are, in fact, undergoing a constant attack and redefinition. Censorship cases have risen dramatically since the mid-1970’s.


Suggested Readings

American Library Association. Banned Books, 1995. Chicago: World Book, 1995. Publication of current issues.

American Library Association. Censorship Litigation and the Schools. Chicago: World Book, 1983. Proceedings of an important colloquium.

American Library Association. Intellectual Freedom Manual. 4th ed. Chicago: World Book, 1992. A discussion of issues and procedures concerning library and school selection of materials.

American Library Association. Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom. Chicago: World Book. Published every other month. Deals with current events, publications, and court cases involving censorship, mainly in schools and libraries.

Clor, Harry M. Obscenity and Public Morality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. Places censorship of literature in the larger context of the culture views of morality, centering on questions about the definition of obscenity.

Davis, James, ed. Dealing with Censorship. Chicago: National Council of Teachers of English, 1979. Dated but still useful collection of essays on aspects of censorship in public schools.

Foerstel, Herbert N. Banned in the U.S.A.: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. An overview of important incidents, pertinent laws, views of a few important authors on censorship. Contains a synopsis of the most frequently banned books in the 1990’s.

Gregorian, Vartan, ed. Censorship: Five Hundred Years of Conflict. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. A survey of the historical context.