An overview of the history of western censorship

Cities and states around the nation create local censorships boards in the following years, resulting in a variety of different rules and standards.

An overview of the history of western censorship

Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. Contemporary scholarship emphasizes the dynamic interplay between literary expression and forms of cultural regulation, recognizing its paradoxically productive capacity to generate as well as suppress meaning.

Tracing the genealogies of literary censorship, from its formulations in ancient Rome, through medieval religious persecution, sedition and heresy charges, theatre controls, early modern print and copyright licensing, to the seeming breakthroughs of the Enlightenment, details the interdependence of modernity and cultural regulation.

At stake in this history are defining relations between culture and society, knowledge and power, not least in the manner in which literature traverses the boundary between public and private, and censorship polices that divide.

The available frames for understanding censorship, from liberal, materialist, psychoanalytic, linguistic, and poststructuralist positions, face challenges from diversifying and yet synthesizing situations for literature in a global world.

Censorship defines the literary by outlawing that which it is not allowed to be; literature shapes censorship by exploring and contesting its limits.

And insofar as censorship in its modern incarnation is cotemporaneous with print culture and dependent for its character on the media technologies and forms of literacy grown by that age, literature has been its most persistent and prominent antagonist.

This negative identification, through modernity, has produced the character, form, and identity of literature and censorship as we understand them now. Social and political injunctions on forms of speech and representation featured in many ancient civilizations, from early Sumeria and Egypt to the controls built into Chinese ideography, as well as the taboos and protocols maintained around symbolic meaning in numerous other societies.

The Freudian definition, of course, refers to a foundational aspect of the functional consciousness, in which unacceptable subconscious forms of meaning and desire are suppressed and displaced; such a model understands censorship to be a constitutive lesson learned by the social subject, dependent neither on a public context nor on forms of collective or sanctioned political power.

While recognizing the nonrational and subjective impulses that can collectively animate social censorship is highly revealing, contemporary censorship scholarship is generally focused on public and communal forms of regulation, practices implemented through contracted and legitimated forms of power over groups or populations on a greater than individual scale.

The emphasis on the individual censor is notable, but so is the delineation of targets, much more distinctly literary in their itemization than the broadly disseminated forms of communication identified now.

Perhaps most anachronistic is the qualifier: Many notably strict censorship regimes have refused the designation on the grounds that pre-publication controls were not in place, including in apartheid South Africa and pre-revolutionary France, while contemporary licensing requirements for media outlets and Internet service providers offer arguably similar regulatory instruments to contemporary governments.

Frames for Censorship It is possible to conceive of censorship through quite variant theoretical frames, of course. Liberal models for censorship inherit from Enlightenment thinkers a structuring opposition between freedom and control, a pervasive Manichean divide that informs many arguments today.

Svarez in Germany continued similar arguments in the 18thcentury. In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill elaborated, inthe argument that truth was best established in unrestricted combat with all ideas, going further than Milton in arguing that we should tolerate ideas we find repellent.

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In this sense, the role of private ownership as a form of censorship has been limited or relative compared to regimes of regulation administered by governments on a national scale.

Contemporary electronic forms of communication have long escaped the confines of the nation-state, however, while becoming increasingly agglomerated via a confined number of dominant providers, companies, and media platforms who can exercise control over very large numbers of users with little regard to countries of origin or national jurisdictions.

The arenas of expression thus subject to private censorship are expanding rapidly and complexly. At the same time, post-Freudian psychoanalytic models, which have been extrapolated to explain social and representational control, enabled theorizations of censorship as fundamental to all human speech and meaningmaking.

The mundane acts of selection, prioritization, authorizing, and refusal that occur in every piece or act of communication are understood as at once essential to it and all forms of censorship. Without such editorial sanctions and control, whether unconscious, individual, collective, or political, Judith Butler among others has argued, communication would be impossible, and sociality too, not to mention culture.

The problems that historical accounts have with the common-sense understanding of self-censorship—the internal, individual suppression of what would otherwise be expressed publicly—are that such instances are ephemeral and non-identical, and rarely demonstrate a measurable, verifiable application of power or suppressive control.

Is it the individual subject or national discourse or national space, or identity that national regimes seek to protect? Is state censorship constituting the citizen or regulating public knowledge, or both at once? Using power to delimit knowledge, censorship targets literature insofar as and in the ways in which it first manifests the too-knowing subject, at ease with forms of understanding unsanctioned by regulated consensus or sovereign power, and second, enacts public identity, in the sense of identification, cathecting such understanding beyond a single reading moment.

From these early modelings, European notions of liberal freedom and entitled citizenship arose.

An overview of the history of western censorship

The Roman censors were responsible for the official census of citizens, and in counting they also designated, so they had considerable power in determining what qualified a man for citizenship: This mode of control rapidly expanded from persons to writings.

Tacitus claims Augustus as the first proper censor: At issue in this mediation between realms is the role of literature—the epics, the theater, and orations—and its pervasive interest in the claims of the private sphere not only to public attention but also to political content: As religious heresy and blasphemy rose to the top of the list of offenses in early Christianity and through the Middle Ages, what would later be called obscenity also gained greater prominence as a measure of moral conduct in the policing of scandalous utterance, blasphemy, and libel.

Arguably, literature has always been subject to the policing of shared morality, in distinguishing itself from forms of historical and philosophical writing through its focus on situations of moral ambiguity and its role in enacting cultural pleasure.

As a result, nonconformity and heresy became virtually indistinguishable from sedition and treason. Elsewhere in Europe, the state became the dominant force in policing crimes against religion too, even in Catholic countries, with political motivations justifying persecution.

But under Elizabeth I in England, heresy ceased to be a capital crime: In effect, while blasphemy was also a capital offense, reinforced by passage of an act against it init was a lesser one:Sex, censorship and media regulation in Japan: a historical overview Abstract Over the past several decades alarmist reports about the supposed dangers of the sexualised nature of much.

The right to free speech is a US tradition, but actually respecting the right to free speech is not. Here is a timeline on censorship in the United States. EBSCOhost serves thousands of libraries with premium essays, articles and other content including Censorship & Democracy: An Overview.

Get access to over 12 million other articles! Art and Culture Censorship Timeline. A Selective Timeline of Art Censorship from to the Present An exhibition of paintings by San Francisco artist Mark Harris celebrating Black History Month is removed from the lobby of an East Side Union School District building by the school district’s superintendent, due to ‘complaints.

An overview of the history of western censorship banning everything from. 40 Years On For more than three decades. but authorities in the country are increasingly comfortable with shutting out foreign companies and Kyrgyzstan: Geographical and historical treatment of Kyrgyzstan.

An overview of the history of western censorship banning everything from. 40 Years On For more than three decades. but authorities in the country are increasingly comfortable with shutting out foreign companies and Kyrgyzstan: Geographical and historical treatment of Kyrgyzstan.

Internet Censorship: An Overview