The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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University hosts Banned Books Week

This week, Bucknell University will join in the national celebration of Banned Books Week from Oct. 1 through Oct. 7. Banned Books Week, originally established in 1982, is dedicated to recognizing the harm caused by the censorship of literature and celebrates the value of intellectual freedom and exploration.

In an effort to help draw attention to the history of censorship in the United States during a time at which book bans are increasing exponentially in libraries and educational institutions across the country, Bucknell is hosting a number of events this week; details are available on the Bucknell main calendar online. On Monday, Oct. 2, there was a Banned Books Read Out in the afternoon outside of Academic West. On Tuesday, Oct. 3, Professor Elizabeth Blake gave a talk regarding banned books and her recent book titled “Edible Arrangements” in the Traditional Reading Room in Bertrand Library. Lastly, on Thursday, Oct. 4, there was a Banned Books Week Day of Action on the third floor of the ELC. 

These events give students and teachers the opportunity to learn more about the impact of book bans and challenges. Also, by hosting these events, Bucknell is able to offer a space in which people on campus may be able to personally relate to and express how the banning of certain books has affected their lives.

Elizabeth Blake is a professor at Clark University where she specializes in food studies, gender and sexuality studies and modernist literature. She came to Bucknell to give a surprising and intriguing talk regarding the “obscenity” of banning books. 

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Blake elaborated that books go on trial for obscenity for containing sexually evocative and explicit content. However, she noted that oftentimes there are attempts to challenge books by highlighting certain passages or phrases that frame works of literature in a way that takes away from the entirety of the work. 

Throughout the talk, Blake primarily used the modernist novel “Ulysses” by James Joyce as the main subject of dissection in her discussion. She did so because “Ulysses” is famed for setting a precedent in literature and book bans for obscenity and because this novel has a significant “dual cultural role: it’s a famously obscene book and a famously important book. It’s often cited as one the greatest achievements of literary modernism and because its famous obscenity trails are foundational to the way we think about obscenity today.”  

Blake touched on how books such as “Ulysses” are deemed obscene because of the possible emotions or desires they could evoke in a reader. 

“When considering ‘Ulysses,’ this is especially true because oftentimes the fear that comes from the provocation of an ‘obscene’ text is that it will elicit emotions or thoughts that are not heteronormative,” said Blake. “However, the controversy that characterizes the existence of ‘Ulysses’ goes beyond that of a non-heteronormative tone in that the work also represents a significant production of literary mastery in terms of the entirety of the novel.”

Bucknell, being a private university, gives us the opportunity and access to knowledge and books that many do not have access to. The state of Pennsylvania has the third most banned books in our country. For reasons such as these, it is important that as individuals we do our best to consume the knowledge that is available to us and also take action so that these resources are universally accessible to others one day.

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