Franklin

Indecent reading: Literature, obscenity law, and United States culture, 1952--1966 [electronic resource].

Author/Creator:
Tulli, Victor.
Format/Description:
Book
380 p.
Subjects:
American literature.
Law.
United States -- History.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Summary:
Postwar controversies over literary indecency compelled the construction of modern obscenity law around the notion of culture as a self-regulating marketplace. The position of literature as the most prestigious form of culture allowed publishers and intellectuals to use it in negotiating First Amendment protection for artistic expression, and between the early fifties and the mid-sixties, a series of textual provocations generated two developments: the legal principle of "redeeming social importance" within obscenity law, and a concurrent cultural logic of expressive freedom that was implicitly based on the public's right to consume rather than the artist's right to create. Several controversial texts of the period---Grace Metalious's Peyton Place (1954), Norman Mailer's The Deer Park (1955), Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems (1955), and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (1955)---participated in this renegotiation of artistic autonomy by challenging contemporary notions of the social consequences of literary indecency. Although each text asserts its own particular claims to literary freedom, their various self-justifications are consolidated into the assumption that culture can police itself most effectively when it includes and contains the antisocial energies represented both by indecent writing and by the act of reading it. The gradual legitimation of indecent literature in the fifties led to the development of an "ideology of pornography" in the sixties, through which pornography came to be defended within literary circles as a powerful form of social critique even as legal and sociological approaches were concluding that it was harmless or entirely personal in its effect. Longstanding bans on D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer , and John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure were repealed by court decisions that asserted the power of the literary to neutralize and "package" the subversive potential of indecency for easy consumption. This justification of a free market of culture remains the underlying basis of the regulation of expression despite the rhetoric of individual rights dominating current First Amendment theory. Our inability to reconcile these two models is the fundamental but unacknowledged problem of censorship debates and culture wars today.
Notes:
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 60-12, Section: A, page: 4433.
Adviser: Alan Filreis.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Pennsylvania, 1999.
Local notes:
School code: 0175.
Contributor:
University of Pennsylvania.
Contained In:
Dissertation Abstracts International 60-12A.
ISBN:
9780599558991
Access Restriction:
Restricted for use by site license.
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