In observance of the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week,” the department sponsored its first Banned Books Reading on the evening of September 25 in the UC Lounge. Seven ETFL faculty members chose and read passages from books that have been, or are still being, banned. About 45 students attended the event, according to organizer Michael Berntsen, and a lively discussion followed the readings.
Many of the students in attendance, most of whom were not English majors, had never heard of some of the books included in the reading. They were quick to grasp why The Naked Lunch, written by William S. Burroughs in 1959, might have been banned, Berntsen said, but were less certain about what might have made Kate Chopin’s The Awakening objectionable back in 1899. The evening provided entertainment as well as some interesting lessons about literature, changing standards, and the continued importance of freedom of speech.