So I am graduating in May. MAY. I can’t believe how quickly two years have flown by. The biggest obstacle between me and my diploma is my big, looming thesis paper. Students are required to spend one full calendar year researching, writing, and fleshing out their papers. As the date to choose a topic creeped closer, I panicked. This was the last chance I was ever going to have to write an academic paper on a topic of my choice–but I also wanted to incorporate my business and editorial concentrations. So what to write about?
I finally decided to focus on Banned Books. I had always been interested in them. I didn’t want to simply write a research paper, though. I needed a question to explore; I needed to write about this topic in a way that hadn’t been done before. After
some LOTS of thinking and an “AHA” moment, I finally figured out how to do what I wanted. I decided to look at book banning as a culture, perpetuated by time, continued challenges, and celebrations around the globe.
So here I am in almost March of 2015, and I am well on my way to completing my second-to-last draft. It’s been a grueling process, but I am almost done. Here for your perusal, comments, and criticisms, is my overview:
Book Banning: [title here]
Three hundred and seven formal complaints were filed with the American Library Association (ALA) in 2013 regarding books deemed “inappropriate.” For each challenge recorded, the ALA estimates that there are four to five more that go unreported. If that presumption is true, then any number from 1,228 to 1,535 books were challenged in 2013 alone. For centuries, books have been challenged and persecuted on moral grounds, namely political, religious, sexual, and spiritual grounds. These books, dubbed “banned books,” were perceived to pose a threat to the society that forbade them.
So what does “banned” really mean? In our current day and digital age, books aren’t banned in the United States anymore. They are frequently challenged, sure, but if a book is unavailable in a school’s library you can bet that it is easily found in a local bookstore, library, or that behemoth corporation we love to hate—Amazon. The word “banned” has become so charged with political and social implications that its legacy has survived longer than the actual practice. In fact, the American Library Association (ALA) and its various offices and initiatives have made banning materials difficult to do.
Although bans aren’t as common as they once were, we still celebrate our freedom to read. Every year during the last week of September, we commemorate Banned Books Week. Literary websites and shops sell banned book themed tote bags, socks, t-shirts, and more. The week was founded to celebrate our intellectual freedom to read what we choose, and it has turned into a week of celebrating the books themselves. Many of the books in question are undoubtedly great pieces of literature, but they are only celebrated for that—these books have been deemed inappropriate and so the general readership has become drawn to them. Why are we celebrating the fact that these books have been repeatedly challenged? Shouldn’t we be celebrating that we have the resources available to access and read them, and the fact that their literary greatness has withstood scrutiny and opposition?
This thesis will aim to explore how this banned book culture came about, question the implications of the word “banned,” the societal impact of challenges to reading material, and how the defined banned book culture shapes the publishing industry: does the potential of a book’s being banned effect the way it is written, edited, marketed, and sold?