Call for Proposals: Nihil Obstat - Reading and Circulation of Texts After Censorship

May 31, 2019


Literary scholars, sociologists, and historians have long explored the processes and ideology of censorship as well as the histories of the censors themselves. Pre-publication censorship practices and the institutions of church and state that foster them have dominated the field of study. Fewer efforts have taken texts after the fact of censorship or have detailed their further intellectual, cultural, and social trajectories. But as Deleuze wrote in Negotiations (1995), "Repressive forces don't stop people expressing themselves, but rather force them to express themselves." While censorship takes various forms, many of them violent, it has tended toward failure, and historically the experience of censorship amongst groups as disparate as 17th century Puritans and 20th century Lithuanian poets is often deeply instructive in the means of subversion, publication, and dissemination. Censorship has informed collecting practices, as with Thomas James, who used the Catholic Index Librorum Prohibitorum to dictate the acquisitions policy of the Bodleian library from the late 16th century onward. Censorship creates new relationships between people and places because it is enforced differently from country to country, even from building to building; for example, in 1984 when the police raided Gay’s the Word bookshop in London to confiscate “obscene” imported books by Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Kate Millet, and Jean-Paul Sartre, the same titles remained available for loan at Senate House Library a few streets away, and UK publishers continued to publish the same authors unpunished. In the spirit of these examples, this conference seeks to foster an interdisciplinary conversation broaching a larger number of underexplored issues that begin only after the moment of censorship—the excess of argument, collaboration, revision, and in many cases, creative thinking, that are given shape by the experience of suppression.

The working language of the conference will be English, but participants are naturally encouraged to present research completed in any language(s). The goal of the conference will be to publish the proceedings in a collective volume. 


Applications should consist of a title, three-hundred word proposal, and one-page CV, due on May 31, 2019. Please send the materials detailed above to Brooke Palmieri and John Raimo at [email protected] and [email protected].

Accommodations will be available for participants and some funds may be possible for travel assistance within continental Europe.

Please see the Call for Proposals for a full listing of possible topics.