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Censorship and Society (IL018)

Every seminar significantly increased my mood and happiness. I would be happy and laugh in seminars just out of joy, and I would leave them feeling profound happiness, satisfaction, contentment and connection.

– 2016/17 student

Student Conference 2018

 I really liked how you had a range of academics who were evidently passionate about their field doing their topic. But I am glad only half were like that because Roxanne's seminars were invaluable.

– 2016/17 student

The community and personability curated in the seminars made it a very safe space where everyone felt open to speak their mind without being self-conscious or worried about what people would think. And made debate a pleasure.

– 2016/17 student


The aim of this module is to provide general knowledge of the breadth and diversity of censorship across a range of disciplines, countries, time periods, and cultures. Learners will use this knowledge to engage in debates exploring the controversy surrounding censorship, and how this has continued to grow in intensity. The module will inspire discussions on why literature is banned or censored. Is censorship ever justified or realisable? Does censorship inhibit and impose a dictatorship? Who defines the moral values that govern society? How do standards of morality and immorality, obscenity and non-obscenity, differ widely from culture to culture? Can a system of censorship be established which will protect the moral values of a community without infringing upon freedom of expression? Can we ever obtain freedom of expression? Learners will use these discussions to facilitate their analysis and understanding of the reading.

 Loved the breadth of topics and perspectives.

– 2016/17 student

Indicative Structure (2018-2019)

Sex, Obscenity and Immorality

Week 1

Roxanne Bibizadeh - Introduction to the module - Opening with broad questions to determine initial opinions on “What is censorship?”, which will be reviewed in the final weeks of term. The seminar will outline the themes and continue debating philosophical questions regarding censorship in society. We will then examine literature that has been censored for being sexually explicit, obscene or immoral in nature. This session will focus on extracts from D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

I thought this was a fantastic module, in large part due to the enthusiasm of the module leader and the range of high profile guest speakers that shared their knowledge throughout the module.

– 2016/17 student

Week 2

The Right to Freedom of Expression: Obscenity Literature and Law - Dr Boase

This seminar introduces the right to freedom of expression, the universality of this right, its scope of protection, and its limits, including the forms of state censorship permitted under Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular it outlines the law of obscenity in England and Wales. We will look at the Hicklin test that defined obscenity as “to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences”. This will also involve a case analysis of the historic decision of R v Penguin Books Ltd (1990) concerning D H Lawrence’s book Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The seminar will conclude with a discussion about whether obscenity laws should ever be applied to the literary genre of “prison biographies”.

Week 3 -

Dr Laura Schwartz (Department of History) Sex and Censorship: The Gender Politics of Obscenity.

Dr Schwartz will focus on examining two case studies:

The Knowlton Trial of 1877 when feminist Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh deliberately provoked the charge of obscenity by publishing a pamphlet on birth control.The sex wars of the 1980s in Britain and the U.S when feminists debated the pros and cons of banning pornography.

The week will ask whether censorship and obscenity laws have repressed or protected women in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

I felt that in the seminars we were all encouraged by the module convenor to share our ideas no matter our opinion on the topic. This was great as this level of class discussion was something I’ve never had in a seminar, and meant that I looked forward to our classes.

– 2016/17 student

Week 4

Roxanne Bibizadeh - ‘Death to freedom, death to captivity’

The quest for sexual and political freedom is central to Shahriar Mandanipour’s Censoring an Iranian Love Story (2011). Mandanipour’s text complicates the meaning of freedom and oppression. He blurs the boundaries between what has been freely chosen, coercion and force, to suggest that proposals of freedom and un-freedom are an inherently global problem, and oppression is not exclusive to Islamic societies.

The variety of topics taught over the ten weeks was great, and something I’ve never encountered in any other modules. I liked how each week was distinct from the others, however they were all linked together by the theme of censorship.

– 2016/17 student

Governing the Learning Environment and Today’s Technology

Week 5

Dr Melanie Pope (University of Derby) - Education and Censorship -

This session will explore the censorship that has been applied to schools and teachers in the recent history of the compulsory education sector. We will explore curriculum censorship in relation to books that have been banned, including in the new GCSE English Literature specifications under Michael Gove’s direction; and teacher censorship under Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’, and the impact this had on the curriculum and other school initiatives that tried to support young people coming to terms with their sexuality in schools. Other issues of censorship in schools will be considered, such as faith schools amending Science examination papers, and the teaching of Creationism. We will conclude by considering whether censorship is necessary in some areas of compulsory school life, and if so, to what degree? This will hopefully lead to some questioning of whether censorship is ever necessary in the public domain – can it ever be justified?

Week 6 - Reading Week - There will not be a session this week but you are asked to watch the lecture delivered by Professor Nutt and blog.

Science and Censorship - Professor David Nutt - Imperial College London - Department of Medicine

Title of Public Lecture - Drug Laws: The worst censorship of research since the Catholic church banned the telescope.

Topics to be discussed:

Types of drugs and how they are controlled
History of drug control - political v scientific challenges
Cannabis compared with alcohol
Scientific opportunities lost - consciousness research - brain imaging
Medical and treatments delayed or abandoned by the regulations - cannabis for pain - psychedelics for addiction and depression
A logical approach to drug control
Some more radical options e.g. a safe synthetic alcohol

Political Censorship and Exile

Week 7

Roxanne Bibizadeh - Education as a Crucial Site of Struggle

This session will explore the importance of the Internet as a tool for freedom of expression and creativity. Aaron Swartz downloaded millions of articles from JSTOR, an academic database, because he thought information should be freely available for all. Swartz was arrested in January 2011 and he committed suicide 11 January 2013, while waiting federal trail, his charges meant he was facing bankruptcy and a potential jail sentence of 35 years. We will analyse the censorship of the web in relation to education, and whether education in higher educational establishments encourages students to read the world critically, enabling freedom and democracy, or whether institutions use education as an instrument of power.

Week 8

Roxanne Bibizadeh - State Censorship

This session will focus on writers and readers whose human rights to freedom of expression are at risk. We will begin by debating the need to align the ethical conscience and the creative imagination, in order to question whether we blind ourselves to the fact that some of the most compelling writing is about the tension between, if not the incompatibility of, these two things.

We will also explore how state censorship forces people into exile and triggers self-censorship. Discussions will then be directed towards political censorship in the U.K. and reviewing initial opinions on “What is censorship?” To consider whether their definitions have changed.

Week 9 - For this week only the session will run on Monday 4 March 2019 at 11 am - 1 pm in B3.03 in the Maths and Stats Zeeman Building

Professor Rob Procter (Department of Computer Science)

The rapid growth of social media platforms such as Twitter has had a significant impact in the way people can connect and communicate instantaneously with others. The content that users put onto social media platforms can go viral in a matter of minutes and that content, whether text, images or links to other sites, can have profound effects on events as they unfold. This can be both for the good or the bad. In times of disaster, tweeting about events can call people to help from around the globe. But people can also spread dubious and dangerous information, hate speech and rumours, via social media. This type of behaviour has been called “digital wildfires”. The World Economic Forum report indicates two situations in which digital wildfires are most dangerous: in situations of high tension, when false information or inaccurately presented imagery can cause damage before it is possible to correct it. The real-world equivalent is shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre – even if it takes a moment for realisation to spread that there is no fire, in that time people may already have been crushed to death in the scramble for the exit. How people communicate in new digital social spaces is not well understood; users may not fully understand how these spaces ‘work’ as channels of communication and so what constitutes appropriate and responsible behaviour may be unclear. The challenge then is to develop appropriate ways of governing these spaces and how to apply and use them responsibly.

Week 10

Student Conference


From my experience with censorship and society, I think IATL modules should be greater advertised around the university. My reason being is that they provide a fresh and new insight into academia that wouldn’t be gained if an individual only took modules from their home department.

– 2016/17 student




Module Convenor


Roxanne Bibizadeh
R dot E dot Bibizadeh at warwick dot ac dot uk


Term 2 (Spring) 2018-19
Tuesdays 14.30-16.30


Room OC1.08
Oculus Building

Office Hours

Tuesdays 16.30 - 17.30 OC1.08

I loved that the assignments were creative and that we used different modes of assessment compared to the standard essay format.

– 2016/17 student

The freedom in assignments was really amazing. The presentation was also great, taught me a lot and developed my public speaking.

– 2016/17 student


For 15 CATS

Event organisation and 500 word reflective commentary on the conference or a 500 word creative autobiographical/autofictional personal experience of censorship. (10%)

Presentation at conference (45%)

Students will have three options for the final 45%:

  1. Submit a 2500 word essay
  2. Submit an edited collection of blog posts (at least 3 blogs which total a maximum of 2500 words)
  3. Create a short 2-4 minute video accompanied by a 500 word commentary.

For 12 CATS

Event organisation and 400 word reflective commentary on the conference or a 400 word creative autobiographical/autofictional personal experience of censorship.(10%)

Presentation at conference(45%)

Students will have three options for the final 45%:

  1. Submit a 2000 word essay
  2. Submit an edited collection of blog posts (at least 3 blogs which total a maximum of 2000 words)
  3. Create a short 2-4 minute video accompanied by a 400 word commentary.

Sample Student Video Submissions

Chetna Khandelwal's Censorship of Farm Animals:

Nicole McGrane's Rewriting the Educational Narrative: