Do books matter? It is not always easy to demonstrate what impact words have on the world. Perhaps it is most obvious when books are considered dangerous – so dangerous that they need to be censored, bowdlerized, or altogether banned. Censorship and banning are by no means historical practices belonging to a dark age long past. According to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, more than 1,600 books were banned in US schools between July 2021 and June 2022. This proseminar considers the history of censorship and banning from the early modern period to the present and what this history teaches us about the social and political function of literature.

In order to gain credit students must not have more than two unexcused absences and complete an in-class presentation as well as an analytic paper (3,000 words). Please note that laptops and other digital devices are not allowed in class.