Noun & verb. Mid-16th century.
[Latin, from censere pronounce as an opinion, rate, assess.]
A1 noun. Historical. Either of two magistrates in ancient Rome who compiled censuses of its citizens, etc.,
and supervised public morals. M16
A2 noun. A person who exercises supervision or judgement over the conduct or morals of others. L16
A3 noun. A adverse critic; a person who censures or finds fault. Now rare. L16
A4(a) noun. An official with the power to suppress the whole or parts of books, plays, films, etc.,
on the grounds of obscenity, seditiousness, etc. M17
A4(b) noun. An official who, especially in times of war, is empowered to censor private letters, news reports, etc. E20
A5 noun. PSYCHOLOGY. [mistranslation of German Zensur censorship (Freud).] A mental power by which certain anxiety-provoking
unconscious ideas and memories are prevented from emerging into consciousness. E20
B verb trans. Act as censor of; officially inspect and make deletions or changes in (a book film, article, letter, etc.). L19
I seem to have an awful penchant for obscene literature. Right now, I'm rereading J.D Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, taking perverse delight in the fact that this bildungsroman, with its profusion of damns, hells and goddams, was banned in Ireland in 1951. Variously, it has been charged by censors as being too sophisticated, gross, shocking and vulgar, and containing a plethora of sexual situations, moral issues and obscene language. Reading it again with modern eyes, the application of such scandalised adjectives to this book can do nothing but prompt a wry smile, a roll of the eyes, and an "Oh what they were thinking!" tut.
|Without Salinger and until Radiohead, who could resonate with disaffected youth?|
The odd thing about censorship, however, and the reason I like its etymology, is it so keenly reflects the opinion and assessment of the censor; while my modern eyes might be bemused by the actions of the censors with regards a book like The Catcher in the Rye, in 1951 the eyes of the censors were modern, and they were examining it with their modern eyes. It makes me wonder whether what I find scandalous and obscene now will be scoffed at by my children. After all, my parents wouldn't let me watch The A-Team, what with its profusion of guns, explosions and "violence without consequences". While I would similarly not let my daughter watch violent programming - The Walking Dead is definitely out, for example - the opinion of what constitutes excessive violence is clearly different to that of my parents, as reflected in our differing censorious proscriptions.
|"Resurrection of Censorship"|
J.J Grandville 1832
Do please leave any comments below.
[comments may be censored]