Censors At Work: How States Shaped Literature by Robert DarntonCensors At Work: How States Shaped Literature by Robert Darnton

Censors At Work: How States Shaped Literature

byRobert Darnton

Paperback | September 3, 2015

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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.

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, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and election to the French Legion of Honor. He is the author of The Great Cat Massacre and The Forbidden ...
Title:Censors At Work: How States Shaped LiteratureFormat:PaperbackDimensions:8.22 × 5.52 × 0.73 inPublished:September 3, 2015Publisher:WW NortonLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0393351807

ISBN - 13:9780393351804


Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pretty good The author's main focus is censorship in France prior to the French Revolution, in India at the time British colonial rule, and in East Germany under Communist rule. Overall it's an okay book. I found the East German section the most interesting, and the rest didn't really seem to hold my interest, ins spite of my interest in the subject matter.
Date published: 2018-04-05

Editorial Reviews

Enthralling. — Alberto Manguel (New York Times Book Review)Provocative. — Jonathan Yardley (Washington Post)A vivid, fascinating study of would-be controllers of literary output. — Felipe Fernández-Armesto (Wall Street Journal)There is no better guide to the inside story of censorship in the past or present than the internationally renowned historian Robert Darnton. He makes the most prosaic encounters come to life…Darnton brings all his skills and passions for books to this fascinating study of censorship in three different times and places and draws a number of conclusions that will be of interest to readers everywhere. — Lynn Hunt, author of Inventing Human Rights