Accueil > Censorship and story-telling

DHUM 25A00 - Censorship and story-telling

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The banning or censorship of books and films often hinges on questions of ‘immorality' or ‘obscenity'—two hard-to-define terms that can evoke sexual explicitness, vice, profanity, violence, etc.—as well as political pressure. This trans-disciplinary course aims to provide details on past and current systems and cases of censorship, and to allow for in-depth study of certain landmark novels and film adaptations that have caused the greatest scandals and most intense censorship. The class will thus bring together notions of media studies, sociology, history, law and key legal battles, publication processes, as well as literary and film analysis. The course will mainly focus on banned and censored books and film adaptations in Great Britain and the U.S., but students will have the opportunity to bring in such cases in other countries during the weekly ‘round table debates' and in-class discussions. The first few courses will focus on providing details on the history of censorship of books and films during the twentieth century, highlighting key cases and related protests or legal battles. Students will participate in these initial discussions, and beginning with the third class nearly every course will begin with a ‘round-table debate' involving 6 to 8 students on the key censorship theme of the session. Later classes will then focus on three ‘case studies' of novels and their film adaptations that had U.S. and British censors in an uproar. The first theme is political censorship, and will focus on George Orwell's landmark dystopian novel, 1984, and two of its film adaptations (Michael Radford's 1984 in 1984 and Terry Gilliam's Brazil in 1985). The second unit will focus on the censorship of so-called ‘Immorality and Perversion' and deals with Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita and its two film adaptations (by Stanley Kubrick in 1961 and by Adrian Lyne in 1996). The final theme will be ‘Vice and Violence' and involves Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange and its scandalous film adaptation, also by Stanley Kubrick, in 1971. Thus the three main themes that draw censorship—politics, sex and violence—will each be given adequate exploration. This course will thus demonstrate how censorship methods have evolved over time and will take into account both direct and indirect means of censorship, as well as self-censorship on the part of certain authors and film-makers. Special focus will also be given to building a sound argument, to presenting one's opinion through in-class round-table debates as well as in a written paper.


TREDY, Dennis (Maître de conférences des universités)

Course validation

The grading for this class is based on Continuous Assessment: General In-class participation (10%) Participation in a Round-Table Debate (25%) One Written Essay as a Homework (choice of two possible assignments) (30%) Comprehensive Final Exam (35%)

Required reading

  • Orwell, George. 1984. 1949. London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2013 (or other edition)
  • Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. 1955. London: Penguin Books, 2011 (or other edition).
  • Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. 1962. London: Penguin Books, 2011 (or other edition).

Additional required reading

  • Films:
  • Five film adaptations to watch/study (after reading the source novel):
  • 1984 (1984, Michael Radford), Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam),
  • Lolita (1961, Stanley Kubrick)
  • Lolita (1996, Adrian Lyne),
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971, Stanley Kubrick)
  • On Censorship in the U.S. and in Great Britain (books and films):
  • Aldgate, Anthony. Censorship and the Permissive Society: British Cinema and Theatre 1955-1965. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
  • Black, Gregory D. Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics and the Movies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • The Catholic Crusade against the Movies: 1940-1975. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997
  • Couvares, Francis G. (ed.). Movie Censorship and American Culture, 2nd Ed. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006.
  • De Grazia, Edward and Newman, Roger K. Banned Films: Movies, Censors and the First Amendment. New York: R.R. Bowter Co., 1982.
  • Foerstel, Herbert N. Banned in the Media: A Reference Guide to Censorship in the Press, Motion Pictures, Broadcasting and the Internet
  • Heins, Marjorie. Sex, Sin and Blasphemy: A Guide to America's Censorship War. New York: The New Press, 1993.
  • Petley, Julian. Censorship: A Beginner's Guide. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2009.
  • Pronay, Nicholas and Croft, Jeremy. “British Film Censorship and Propaganda during the Second World War.” British Cinema History. Eds. James Curron and Vincent Porte. London: Weiderfeld & Nicolson, 1983. 144-63.
  • Robertson, James C. The Hidden Cinema: British Film Censorship in Action 1913-1975. New York: Routeledge, 1993.
  • Tropiano, Stephen. Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive: 100+ Years of Censored, Banned & Controversial Films.
  • On the film Lolita:
  • Corliss, Richard. Lolita. London, BFI, 1994.
  • Kagan, Norman. “Lolita.” The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick. New York: Continuum, 1989. 81-109.
  • Machu, Didier and Tuhkunen, Taïna, eds. Lolita: Roman de Vladimir Nabokov (1955) et film de Stanley Kubrick (1962). Paris : Ellipses, 2009.
  • On the film A Clockwork Orange:
  • Kagan, Norman. “A Clockwork Orange.” The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick. New York: Continuum, 1989. 167-87.
  • Kubrick, Stanley. Clockwork Orange, Based on the Novel by Anthony Burgess. London: Lorrimer, 1972.
  • Naremore, James. “A Professional Piece of Sinny.” On Kubrick. London: BFI, 2008. 153-70.
  • NB: A selected bibliography on each of the three novels under study will also be distributed to students in class.