Literature and Censorship: Who is Afraid of the Truth of Literature? (5th International Comparative Literature Colloquium)

Event title (long): 
Literature and Censorship: Who is Afraid of the Truth of Literature? (5th International Comparative Literature Colloquium, Lipica, Slovenia, 6th -7th September 2007)
Slovene Comparative Literature Association/Slovensko društvo za primerjalno književnost
Closing date for submissions: 
1 May, 2007
Event dates: 
06.09.2007 - 07.09.2007
Marijan Dović, ZRC SAZU, Novi trg 5, 1000 Ljubljana; tel. 01 / 4706 304 ali 031 / 866 444,

Slovensko društvo za primerjalno književnost
Slovene Comparative Literature Association

Literature and Censorship:

Who is Afraid of the Truth of Literature?

5th International Comparative Literature Colloquium
22nd Vilenica International Literary Festival
Wedding Hall, Lipica, Slovenia, 6th -7th September 2007



Thursday, 6 September
15.00 Welcoming speech
Vanesa MATAJC, President of the SDPK

15.15 – 16.45 First Session
Marijan DOVIĆ: Literature and Censorship: An Introduction
Guido BONSAVER: Mussolini, Fascism and Literary Censorship
Salah S. ALI: Ideology, Censorship and Literature: Iraq as a Case Study

17.00 – 18.30 Second session
Aleš GABRIČ: Censorship in Slovenia after the Second World War
Aleksandra JOVIĆEVIĆ: Censorship and Ingenious Dramatic Strategies in the Yugoslav Theatre, between 1945 and 1991
Peter DUNWOODIE: Untimely Rewriting. Memory and Self-Censorship in Camus' Le Premier homme

Friday, 7 September
10.00 – 11.45 Third session
Rok SVETLIČ: Judicial Censorship as Place of Breakdown of Positivistic Jurisprudential Discourse
Louise L. LAMBRICHS: Speaking about Censorship Supposes Being Precise about What is Supposed to be Censored: Handke's Affair as a Case Study
Gašper TROHA: Socialistic and Democratic Censorship in Slovenia: the Case of Pupilija papa Pupilo pa Pupilčki
Matjaž PIKALO, Breda SMOLNIKAR: Censored Slovene Writers

12.00 – 13.30 Fourth session
Stephan PACKARD: Misrepresenting Textual Control: Censorship's Depictions of Censorship
Andrej ZAVRL: Undressing Literary History. The Censorship of Same-Sex Desire
Simona ŠKRABEC: Poetic License


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The Slovene Comparative Literature Association organises, in cooperation with Slovenian Writers' Association, Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and Department for Comparative Literature and Literary Theory (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana), the 5th International Comparative Literature Colloquium entitled Literature and Censorship: Who is Afraid of the Truth of Literature?

As usually, the colloquium will be included in the programme of the 22nd International Writers' Festival Vilenica. The colloquium will take place in the Wedding hall of Lipica (a village located near Sežana, in the beautiful Karst region, close to the Slovene-Italian border), on Thursday, September 6th, and Friday, September 7th, 2007. The concept of the colloquium was written by Dr. Marijan Dović (The Institute of Slovenian Literature and Literary Sciences, SRC SASA, Ljubljana) in cooperation with the Executive committee of the Slovene Comparative Literature Association. The event will be chaired by Marijan Dović and Gašper Troha (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana).

The Concept of the Colloquium

Censorship and literature have been closely connected for quite some time. The rulers and other influential interest groups have always tried to control the circulation of ideas in a society and confine the influence of those that were potentially harmful to their interests. In order to do so a variety of procedures was developed which can be described with the term censorship. The term covers all forms of regulation of the circulation of ideas, spanning from brutal (repressive apparatus: judiciary, police, even army) to softer, more sophisticated models (exclusions, lists of forbidden books or authors, restricted access). An important distinction can be made between explicit and implicit forms of censorship. While the explicit censorship relatively clearly sets out the forbidden areas and offers a transparent system of sanctioning the violations, the implicit censorship, well known in communist regimes of the 20th century, deliberately leaves a wide range of openness; it is never completely clear when the border has been transgressed, as well as it is not clear what kind of sanctions can follow. It is also possible to distinguish between preliminary (preventive) and repressive censorship. While the preliminary censorship guarantees the precursory control of any publication, the repressive censorship takes place after the problematic work is published; if necessary, it seizes the work, prosecutes the authors, etc. Finally, concerning the prohibited areas, one can distinguish moral (ethically problematic or "obscene" works), political (interest of the state, army, "political correctness") and, for the present time characteristic, corporate censorship (filtering media contents, for example leaving out the unfavorable information about the advertisers).

In practice, censorship never prohibits something in a vacuum. It always tries to regulate the circulation of content in a certain communication medium. This is the reason why the forms of censorship in the course of time have changed significantly, while the basic principle and function have remained intact: preservation of power, authority and influence. Contemporary information society represents a radical break compared to previous forms: if one supposes that the tendencies for censoring are still there, a question appears, how in the age of global interconnectedness and possibility of endless reduplication and virtual distribution of contents, the censoring procedures and its effects are being preserved. The scientific systems, that are the privileged observers of the society, are definitely responsible for identification and description of such forms.

History of censorship shows that different kinds of works, varying from religious (Quran, Bible, heretical or apocryphal writings) and philosophical to scientific (Kopernik, Bruno,Galilei, Darwin) and literary, were its subject in different societies. Numerous masterpieces of world literature canon were at some time censored, mutilated; their authors were prosecuted or placed on lists of prohibited literature; usually for moral or political reasons. Certain form of moral-ideological censorship met Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (around 1400), Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1857), Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) and many other, less famous works. For social and political reasons Voltaire's Candid (1759), Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) and literature in communist countries (works of Solzhenicin or Pasternak) were censored.

At first glance, one could not say that censors would principally distinguish between censoring literary or non-literary materials. Nevertheless, literary works were obviously their frequent and favorite target - despite the fact that literature (at least from the Pre-Romantic era) has been developing an aura of artistic autonomy and that the theoretical discourse was simultaneously producing various arguments of a special structure, function and autonomous laws of art (one of the most important arguments was the elaboration of complex opposition between "reality" and "fiction"). Autonomous literary systems, which developed in modern Europe, actually created a unique space for the articulation of fundamental dilemmas of the society. Many examples show that the engagement in the literary field opened up new opportunities for creative expression of special insights that were often conflicted with the prevailing ideologies and social norms. This special role of literature was even more visible in the totalitarianisms of the 20th century, where the (dissident) literature functioned as the scene of the most decisive ethical reflections.

The question of special truth and value of literature has repeatedly been posed for quite some time. With all sharpness it appeared already in ancient Greece in the famous quarrel between Plato and Aristotle on the value of literature. As it is well known, Plato drove poetry and poets out of its ideal Republic mainly for moral reasons, while Aristotle in his Poetics launched an influential thesis on the particularity of the historiographical truth compared to the wholeness and universality of the literary truth. Aristotle's thesis echoes until the present day in a notion of literature as a holder of a special truth, a notion which was only consolidated by the romantic authorial myth. Numerous discussions, also the ones that were trying to radically undermine this conception, showed that the relevance, truth, ethical and social value of literature have to be negotiated all the time.

Besides the study of historical examples of literary censorship a stimulation of such discussion is one of the primary goals of the colloquium. Without the responds to these questions the literary science can hardly face the challenges of the present time. One of such challenges, connected with censorship, is also a collision between literature and law in the cases of literary defamation, recently witnessed also in Slovenia (cases Pikalo and Smolnikar). A simple argument that the literature is just an invention has righteously proved to be insufficient. The defence of literary autonomy calls for far more complex analysis of the relations between fiction and reality - from older ideas of quasi-reality (Ingarden) to more recent concepts such as transworld identities, fictional operators or polyreferentiality (Doležel, Lamarque - Olsen, Ronen, Whiteside). One of the tasks of literary sciences and comparative literature is also production of persuasive theoretical arguments, which will enable them to take active part in the future, when new relations among law, literature and censorship will be established.

Themes of the Colloquium

A. Historical cases of literary censorship (prosecutions and exclusions from antiquity until the present day)
- Communication channels, ideological mechanisms and the actual range of censorship measures
- Censorship and auto-censorship in totalitarianisms
- The question of transformation of recent censorship practices

B. Theoretical contributions on the specific significance of the literary truth and ethics, which were the true reason for censorship or prosecution
- Special truth and ethics of literature
- Literature and law: the problem of literary defamation
- New conceptualisations of the relationship "reality" - "fiction"

Call for Papers

Although we are expecting some invited speakers from Slovenia and abroad, we would like to encourage other writers and critics, who might be interested in the topic, to take part in our colloquium. Regretfully, the number of speakers is limited (to about twelve persons). Therefore we will have to choose among the proposals that will arrive on time and will best suit the purposes and the conceptual outline of the conference. We apologise in advance to be forced to reject some of valuable proposals.

We invite you to send your proposal to the organiser by e-mail (Marijan Dović, ZRC SAZU, Novi trg 5, 1000 Ljubljana; tel. 01 / 4706 304 ali 031 / 866 444, ) not later than 1 April, 2007. Your proposal should include:
- the title of your presentation,
- English abstract (not more than 250 words or 2000 characters),
- full address (institutional affiliation, post address, e-mail, telephone).

You will be notified about our decision until May 1. In case of positive answer, we expect your photography and short curriculum (5 lines) until May 15; and theses (500-1000 words, in English) for Slovene translation until 1 August 2007.

In order to leave enough time for discussion, presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. The working language of the conference will be English.

Translations and projections. Conference room facilities include an LCD-projector. Normally, the projector will be used for Slovene translations of theses/summaries. If another language will be used, English translation will be projected simultaneously. In case you need a projector for your presentation (USB), the Slovene theses will be printed on paper.

Travel and accommodation. The organisers will offer transfer from the Brnik airport (Ljubljana) to Lipica free of charge. They will also provide accommodation in the Maestoso hotel (all meals included) in Lipica to twelve invited or selected speakers. All local transfers to other venues of the festival will also be free. Participants of the colloquium will receive a special bag with conference and festival materials. They are also invited to attend other festival events during their stay in Lipica.

Special Issue of the Journal Primerjalna književnost. Slovenian Comparative Literature Association will publish the proceedings of the conference in a special printed bilingual (Slovene and English) issue of the journal Primerjalna književnost (Comparative Literature,, indexed by A&HCI).

We look forward to your response.

For SDPK Executive committee:

Marijan Dović, vice-president

Ljubljana, January 30, 2007
Vilenica 2007-INVITATION.doc54 KB
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