TO DEPRAVE AND CORRUPT: FORBIDDEN, HIDDEN AND CENSORED BOOKS
UNESCO Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas, State Library of Victoria
The Centre for the Book, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Date: 14–16 July 2010
Keynote speakers will include:
Prof. Jenny Hocking (Monash University), author of Frank Hardy: Politics Literature Life (2005) and Terror Laws: ASIO, Counter-Terrorism and the Threat to Democracy (2004).
* Manuscript, Print and Digital Publications
* Legal, Religious and Cultural Prohibitions
* Histories, Modes and Strategies of Textual Censorship and Subversion
* Immoral, Blasphemous and Seditious Books
* Clandestine and Self-publication, Underground Distribution and Resistant Archiving
* The Cultural Politics of Editing, Publishing, Retailing and Cataloguing
Books have long attracted an array of legal, religious and cultural prohibitions.
Most spectacularly, specific books have been decried, seized and publicly destroyed by state and religious institutions. Liberal-minded scholars have tended to focus on the trials surrounding celebrated books, from Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) to Spycatcher (1987), as unjustifiable encroachments on authorial free speech. Likewise, there is a long history of conflict over the availability and content of children’s and young adult literature, with schools and libraries regularly responding to public debates on moral, social and political aspects, including campaigns over allegedly sexist and racist content in Enid Blyton’s work and occult themes in the Harry Potter (1999–2007) and Twilight (2005–8) series. The status, content and possible influence of comics and graphic novels remain a lightning-rod for deep-seated cultural anxieties, in both children’s and adult markets. But 21st-century prohibitions also extend well beyond fiction genres, with anti-terrorism legislation and bans on euthanasia criminalising possession and sale of specific ‘how-to’ handbooks, or even their consultation in academic research libraries.
More pervasively, books have been subject to textual interventions that effect censorship by comparatively subtle means, through omissions, excisions and selective glossing, the creation of ‘school’ and ‘family’ editions, and by the addition of tendentious paratextual apparatus. There is also a wide variety of mechanisms by which certain books become hidden—by denying state cultural subsidies to the authors of ‘unfashionable’ subjects, allowing texts to drop out of print, remain un-reviewed or academically neglected. Publishers, librarians and readers may themselves actively collude in such obscuring practices: through misleading cover-designs and blurbs, skewed marketing and publicity campaigns, inaccurate cataloguing, creating restrictive ‘closed collections’, or through the deliberate mis-shelving of books by library patrons.
But in a world of textual abundance, and with the growing penetration of algorithmic search-engines, can any book remain hidden for long? As the legal jurisdiction of the nation-state struggles to combat piracy and grass-roots file-sharing, as individual activist and corporate mass-scanning projects deliver prohibited texts virtually, and online book retailers offer an ever-growing ‘long tail’ of globally-sourced book titles, strategies for both prohibiting and evading prohibition are clearly in a critical state of flux.
The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand, The Centre for the Book at Monash University, and The UNESCO Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas at The State Library of Victoria invite proposals considering examples of forbidden, hidden and censored books (conceived broadly) and the issues that stem from them.
Abstracts are sought for both individual papers (20 minutes) and themed panel sessions (3 x 20 minute papers).
Please email prospective paper titles, 300-word proposals and 50-word presenter bio-notes by Friday 26 February 2010 to the conference organisers at: