Critical Insights: Censored & Banned Literature

Salem. Apr. 2019. 300p. ed. by ed. by Robert C. Evans. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781642650280. $105; ebk. ISBN 9781642650297. REF
Editor Evans (English & philosophy, Auburn Univ. at Montgomery; Perspectives on Renaissance Poetry) has compiled a variety of essays on censored and banned literature. The book is divided into two large sections (“Critical Contexts” and “Critical Readings”), with a shorter chapter featuring Evans’s introduction and a “self-interview” by Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who explains why he produced an edition of Huckleberry Finn with revised language and details reader response. “Critical Contexts” offers an overview of how banning and censoring have changed over time. “Critical Readings” covers specific cases of censorship, self-censorship and unofficial censorship, and primary source material on how the NAACP addressed the release of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation in 1915. The pieces vary widely: Evans, also the writer of three essays, has a literary style that will nevertheless be accessible to most readers, while other authors adopt a more academic tone. This latter point is not to the book’s detriment, as Evans has provided a rich resource for a variety of scholars, students, and professionals, but it makes the conceit of the volume’s organization (that it will be read from beginning to end, context first, then specific examples) unlikely to be the case.
VERDICT Most readers will home in on a specific essay or section, but they will likely find something useful in this wide-ranging text.

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