[Milton-L] Recommendations for a course on censorship

Shannon Reed shannon.reed at gmail.com
Fri Nov 16 13:40:25 EST 2007

For several years I've taught a beginning writing course that focuses on

I begin with Milton's Areopagitica, and then follow that with what others
have said on censorship (I most often use excerpts from Plato's Republic, a
chapter from Wayne Booth's The Company We Keep, and two essays on censorship
by Salman Rushdie (in Imaginary Homelands) and J. M. Coetzee.)  After this
introduction, we read Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran--her book is
great because it balances conversations about the power of fiction with
descriptions of censorship.  She also shows how to critically analyze
literature.  After Nafisi, we tackle Lolita on our own--and we watch both
movies (mostly, in the comp class, to discuss different interpretations).
This last time I ended the class with Satrapi's Persepolis (more to balance
Nafisi than for its contributions to censorship).

Beginning with the essays, articles, and excerpts works well to call
students' attention to why people censor: what do you have to believe about
literature (or more specifically, about fiction) to think censorship is a
good idea?  what do you have to think about reading?  or about what it means
to be human?  Pairing Milton and Coetzee (humanist and post-modernist)
raises very interesting discussions among the students.  We then talk about
Nafisi, Nabokov & c. with reference not only to what people want to censor,
but why--what are they trying to accomplish?

This class has gone through many permutations--sometimes I have taught
Fahrenheit 451, sometimes Slaughterhouse-Five, and one time I even threw in
Joseph Andrews.  Whatever texts I teach, I've found Milton's Areopagitica to
be a very useful starting point.  Once they get used to the rhythms of
Milton's prose, they get very excited about his ideas--esp. about what it
means to be a reader.

I would be very interested in what you collect from various responses.
Shannon Reed
Assistant Professor of English
Cornell College
Mount Vernon IA 52314
On Nov 15, 2007 12:58 PM, Angelica Duran <duran0 at exchange.purdue.edu> wrote:

> Dear scholars,
> I am very excited about an opportunity to teach a course on censorship for
> a
> university honors program  in Autumn 2008 (looking quite ahead).  I have
> some definite ideas about texts and topics I'd like to cover --
> _Areopagitica_ and Milton's placement on the Spanish Inquisition's Index
> Librorums will not doubt be a part of the course; and I will include
> _Fahrenheit 451_ because my students will participate in a town-and-gown
> with an area high school that will also read that text. But I do want to
> have a little more input about primary and secondary works from the
> ancient
> to contemporary times from disciplines ranging from the arts, sciences,
> engineering, history, politics, etc. before I submit my final proposal. If
> you have any suggestions, know of colleagues who focus on the subject and
> could give sage advice, etc., please do tell.
> Thank you for your consideration. All speed apprecaited.
> Adios,
> Angelica Duran
> Associate Professor
> English and Comparative Literature
> Purdue University
> 500 Oval Drive
> West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
> (765) 496-3957
> <duran0 at purdue.edu>
> <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/directory/?personid=80>
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