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Censorship and the Novel


Subject Literature » Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature

Key-Topics censorship , feminist criticism, fiction, modernism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405192446.2011.x


“All books now seem to me surrounded by a circle of invisible censors,” Virginia Woolf confided to her diary in August 1939 (1984, 229). Written on the eve of World War II, these words summon up an entire culture of censorship that shaped the context in which modern British novelists worked in the first half of the twentieth century. After the end of World War II in 1945, Britain saw widespread social and political changes, including the founding of the welfare state, the break-up of the empire, mass immigration from former colonies, and a more liberal moral climate, which led to the relaxation of censorship laws. One significant literary result of these postwar developments was the new Obscene Publications Act of 1959, followed by the long-awaited publication of D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover after the celebrated trial of 1960 (preceded by a similar verdict in the US in 1959). Before these landmark events, however, novelists such as Lawrence, Joyce, and Woolf herself had labored under the threat of censorship not only by public officials but by editors, publishers, and printers who feared inciting government action or harbored their own moral or political objections to what they considered of fensive or obscene literature. Censorship was always in the air. As well-known legal events make clear, however, the forces of censorship surrounding the modern novelist ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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