Banned in the USA: Freedom of Expression and the Literary Canon

Register for this Fall 2022 course on the new NYU SPS Academy of Lifelong Learning website.

Book banning has become a frequently used weapon in the culture wars in the United States and beyond. Both formal and informal censorship of books is a growing social problem. Most of our discussion about books in literary contexts presumes a public sphere in which there is freedom of expression. This is something which is increasingly imperiled. In the past, as the information scientist Herbert N. Foerstel has put it, books were censored in America more out of "social consensus” than because of “state or church power.” However, this is changing with state boards of education becoming increasingly more active in banning books. We will read ten of the most banned books of our era, discussing why they are controversial and what it means to ban them. We will also explore the way censorship perversely creates its own canon and how privileging literature is a contested category of cultural expression. Books for discussion include: The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood; The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison; Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury; To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee; The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas; Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang; Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel; The Awakening, Kate Chopin; The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini. Fall 2022 tuition is $599.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • An understanding about why certain books are controversial and what it means to ban them
  • Familiarity with the top banned books of the modern era in the United States

Ideal for

  • Those with an interest in American literature, history, and culture
  • The curious and creative
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.