The Red Pen": U.Va. Library Presents Censorship Exhibit
5, 2000 -- What level of public
danger or offensiveness justifies censorship? And what does censorship
mean for ideals of free speech, the Bill of Rights, and artistic
people have some notion of limits on what should be made widely
available to the public. But, "where do you draw the line in
the sand?" asks Melinda Baumann, curator of the exhibition,
"Censored: Wielding the Red Pen," showing through Jan.
13 in the McGregor Room of Alderman Library at the University of
Wielding the Red Pen" explores this complex question. The exhibition
addresses censorship of childrens and adult literature, film,
art, music, science, correspondence to and from soldiers during
wartime, and more. It presents some of the justifications for censoring
as well as reactions of those censored.
can take many forms and affect many mediums. "Books, films,
music, artwork, and even ideas and speech can be banned, suppressed,
altered, bleeped, blackened, cut, and burned," says Baumann,
a reference librarian in Alderman Library. "A writer or artist
may be imprisoned, fined, fired, or silenced." To witness some
of the various forms of censorship, visitors to the exhibition can
read portions of once-censored works, listen to censored music,
and watch censored film clips.
of the highlights of the exhibition include:
Whitmans personal copy of his 1855 book of poetry, Leaves
of Grass. Whitman lost his job with the U.S. Government when
his supervisor found the annotated book among his possessions.
The book was deemed obscene and too sensual due to its frank portrayal
of sexuality with obvious homoerotic overtones. Leaves of Grass
was legally banned in Boston in the 1880s and libraries throughout
the country refused to buy it.
Diderot Encyclopédie, one of the most brilliant
literary enterprises of the 18th century, was heavily
censored by its editors, who did not agree with philosopher Denis
Diderots and other contributors articles about science,
religion and other topics. The publisher was forbidden to sell
or to distribute the encyclopedia. The Diderot Encyclopédie
is a 35-volume compilation of learning that was considered radical
for its time. The set belonging to U.Va. contains an additional
volume with over 300 original proof pages of articles with corrections
in the hand of Denis Diderot.
childrens literature often receives the greatest amount
of scrutiny. Some items on display are editions Harry Potter
and the Sorcerers Stone by J.K. Rowling, Little Red
Riding Hood, and The Stupids Have a Ball by Harry Allard,
all of which have been challenged by various groups at one time
has the power to greatly affect people and thus is often censored.
In the 1950s, Elvis scandalized America with his hip-shaking sexuality.
When he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the cameras did not
show him from the waist down. In the 1980s, rap music became phenomenally
popular and the subject of controversy. Certain artists are thought
to incite violence against police, women and society. Also in
the exhibition will be music banned by the Nazis before and during
World War II.
an information professional, I have strong feelings about the issue
of censorship, and have created an exhibit that asks the audience
to determine their thoughts and feelings on the subject as well,"
says Baumann. "Often it seems wrong to suppress materials.
But some situations are not so straightforward. By posing questions
to the audience throughout the exhibit I hope to make the experience
both interesting and stimulating."
the exhibition at the University of Virginia Library Monday through
Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m.
to 5 p.m. For more information, see the exhibit Web site at www.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/censored
or call (804) 924-4966.
Melissa Norris, (804) 924-4254