Circles of Censorship: Censorship and its Metaphors in French History, Literature, and Theory

The French Revolution of 1789 bequeathed an enduring rhetoric of human rights which made it conventional to declare oneself against censorship and in favour of freedom of expression. But as this book demonstrates, the apparent consensus on this issue in modern France and elsewhere rests on a shaky sense of that rhetoric's history. And while censors have continued to the present day to charge clumsily across delicate moral and political fields, opponents of literary censorship, in particular, have frequently displayed excessive respect for censored material, mistakenly assuming that the censor can be relied upon to identify material that is disturbing, subversive, or true. Circles of Censorship focuses on key episodes in the history of literary censorship in France. It examines the Madame Bovary trial of 1857, and the prosecution a century later of Pauvert, publisher of Sade's complete works. It analyses and criticizes the Freudian-influenced attempts by the Surrealist movement and by Barthes and the Tel Quel group to subvert and evade censorship. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines and approaches including history, literary theory and feminism, Nicholas Harrison presents a provocative and timely critique of the ideas on censorship which resurfaced repeatedly in the discourse of human rights, psychoanalysis and literary culture.