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Banned Books Bonanza!

By Shayla Locke; For the Clock
On October 6, 2016

Banned Books Bonanza!

Shayla Locke

For The Clock

Sept. 25 through Oct. 1 was banned books week. This year’s Special Topic Taboo Literature class has worked hard on their Banned Book Week projects. Only taught twice in six years by English Department Chair Ann McClellan, this class studies many banned titles such as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, “Lolita” and “American Psycho”. The first classes focused on what society sees as taboo, how to define obscenity, and people’s reaction to it. The class even had an option to write a paper on an episode of the infamous cartoon “South Park”, titled “It Hits the Fan”.

When asked why it is important to teach and celebrate Banned Books Week, Professor Ann McClellan said, “I think we have a lot of misunderstandings about what free speech means, and we think just because we’re in America, we’re protected. A lot of us don’t really know how far that goes.”

She went on to explain how censorship can reveal personal biases, and the biases of the groups in power such as elected officials, schools, and libraries, who make the decisions to ban books. According to the American Library Association, the creators of Banned Books Week, the reason why it is so important is to “draw national attention to the harms of censorship.”

The assignments have three components: a public component, a digital component, and a research component. Students and professors worked together to create their own assignments and options. These students had to pick two out of seven options created democratically by the class and Professor Ann McClellan: a rubric for banning books, an infographic on the most banned books and a Storify about activities during Banned Books Week.

The students needed to create a blog post researching a banned book and its publication history, as well as create a five-minute short video from the point of view of a character from a banned book explaining why the book should not be banned. Students then researched, analyzed, and blogged about how a banned book’s cover influenced the book’s reception. They could have also created a word cloud and analyzed the most prevalent words in the novel. A total of 34 different projects were created from a class of 17 students.

This is the first time the English Department has celebrated Banned Books Week in this manner. During 2010, the Special Topic Taboo Literature class was taught during the spring semester. They created public poster boards on the American Library Association’s banned books list, and hung them up in the library rather than doing multiple projects during the week.

Response from students and faculty were overwhelmingly positive. There are no current plans for events for future banned books week.

Some of the completed projects will be available for viewing online on the PSU English Department blog, which can be accessed from the universities website. One blog post is currently available, and more will be posted throughout next week.

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