The Picture of Dorian Gray – banned! A Farewell to Arms – banned in Boston! Twelfth Night – banned in New Hampshire!
In the shadow of Round House Theatre’s production of Fahrenheit 451 – in which the burning of books was considered a team-building activity – Georgetown Theatre Company will present a public reading of banned classics on Saturday, October 1 (2 pm) at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, 3260 R Street NW, Washington, DC.
In addition to the three scary works of literature mentioned above, the blueblood-blanching collection will include Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” (banned in Boston, 1880); Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Cenci (banned from performance for over a hundred years in England in the 19th and early twentieth centuries), Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” (banned in Boston, and burned in Germany after the Nazis came to power), and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” (banned in Ireland).
Most of these literary classics were condemned either because they advocated pacifism by describing the horrors of war or because they depicted a form of sexual congress which upset the censors. For example, in Merrimac, New Hampshire, a high school banned Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s comedy in which a young woman disguises herself as an adolescent boy and Olivia, a local aristocrat, falls in love with her, because the play allegedly had “the effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative.” In at least one instance, A Farewell to Arms, the upsetting form of sexual congress was…having sex.
Georgetown Theatre Company’s reading of the banned books coincides with the American Library Association’s national “Banned Book Week,” which runs from September 24 to October 1. “Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week,” the ALA notes on its website.