Forbidden Words In Essays Are Poems

Always ask your Mentor which style to use before you begin your paper.

The MLA style refers to the method of writing research papers recommended by the Modern Language Association. The MLA style is used in some areas of the humanities, e.g., composition and literature. Other humanities disciplines such as history, philosophy, and religion may require other styles for formatting your papers. Ask your Primary Mentor which style to use, then come to the Writing Center for further guidance.

  • Always double space, including the text of your paper, quotations, notes, and the list of works cited.
  • Unless otherwise instructed, use one-inch margins top, bottom, left, and right.
  • Use parenthetical citations to acknowledge direct quotations, indirect quotations, and/or any ideas you have borrowed from another person.
  • Use a Works Cited page for reference to parenthetical citations.
  • Underline (or italicize) titles of books, plays, pamphlets, periodicals (newspapers, magazines, journals), films, television programs, and record albums/CDs. Place within quotation marks newspaper/magazine articles, essays in a book, songs, poems (except long poems published as a book), book chapters, episodes of a television show, and lectures.
  • Number pages in the upper right hand corner of the page.
  • Use present tense to introduce cited or quoted material and to make personal comments on such materials. Use past tense only when directly quoting a passage that is in past tense or when reporting historical events.
  • As Winkleman states in the novel Diary of a Madman, "I was never ignorant" (293). Winkleman's purpose in Diary of a Madmanis to point out the innate imperfection of humans. Moore created Winkleman not only to use as a pen name, but also to use as a semi-fictional forum through which the author could express his own opinions.

    Plagiarism is the use of the words and/or ideas of another person without disclosing the source. Whether deliberate or unintentional, plagiarism can lead to failure in a course and/or dismissal from college. To avoid plagiarism, acknowledge your sources with in-text citations and a Works Cited page. Always cite direct quotations(see below). If you use another person's idea or paraphrase another person's words, don't simply rearrange the words. Instead, make sure to use your own style of writing and language, and use an in-text citation to acknowledge the source. Then, list on the Works Cited page the publications or sources from which you obtained your citations.

    The Writing Center here at GVC has a separate handout on this called, "Plagiarism and How to Avoid it: Guidelines for Students."

    I. In-text Citations

  • First Appearance

    Cite the first appearance of or reference to another person's words or ideas by introducing the quotation, paraphrase, or citation with the author's full name exactly as it appears in the source, but exclude titles such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Dr., Reverend, etc. Be sure to include the page number(s) on which the cited material can be found. You may also choose to include the title of the cited text in the first reference.

    Rebecca Peacey states in The Art of the Short Story that, to write good fiction, authors of short fiction must master grammar and punctuation (17).

    The phrase "Rebecca Peacey states in The Art of the Short Story that, ..." is the signal phrase in this example.

    Note:After the first appearance, use only the author's last name within the text of your writing; you do not need to restate the name of the text.

    Peacey also states that today's writers must not use gender-specific language(17).

  • Authors Name Not Used in Text

    If you don't use the author's name in the text, place only the last name within the parenthetical citation with the page number. In the parenthetical citation, don't use "p." or "pp." to indicate page number(s), and don't include the text's title.

    Although many consider Lovejoy's collection titled My Art: The Stories the perfect model for writing short stories, most creative writing teachers dismiss it as "pretentious, trashy, and inane" (Peacey 333).

  • More Than One Author

    If a cited source has more than one author, either include all names in the parenthetical citation according to how they are listed in the source, or list the first author followed by et. al.

    Critics harshly emphasize Lovejoy's chronic use of stale metaphor, cliched symbolism, and predictable twists of irony in his short stories (Newman, Banya, Benis, and Cramer 814).


    Critics harshly emphasize Lovejoy's chronic use of stale metaphor, cliched symbolism, and predictable twists of irony in his short stories (Newman, et. al. 814).

    Note:Make a clear distinction between your words and another person's words so the reader knows where borrowed ideas, paraphrased passages, and/or direct quotations begin and end. In the following example of what not to do, there is no clear distinction between the student's words and ideas and the cited author's words and ideas.

    Trent Lovejoy uses a variety of avian symbolism in his fiction. Doves represent peace. Eagles stand for self-deterministic freedom. Ravens signify the mysterious. Vultures symbolize either death or opportunism. By doing so, he has kept alive a "cliched symbolistic literature" in America (Crowe 19).

    In comparison, the following passage clearly delineates words and ideas, and the reader of this passage can see that the student borrowed both a direct quotation and ideas from Crowe's book, For the Birds.

    In For the Birds, James Crowe explains that Trent Lovejoy uses avian symbols to represent peace, freedom, mystery, death, and opportunism. In doing so, Crowe argues that Lovejoy has managed to keep alive the tradition of "cliched symbolistic literature" for America (189).

    If you are citing an author who has been quoted in another book or article, use the original author's name in the text and the author of the source in which you found the quotation in the parenthetical citation.

    It is far more important for authors to ". . .honor the semiotic tradition by using established symbolism" than it is for them to create new symbols as Lovejoy asserts (qtd. in Crowe: 278).

  • Quotation Lengths

    1. Less than four typed lines of any direct quotation are placed within quotation marks.

      Crowe argues that "Lovejoy has single-handedly kept alive a tradition that has certainly earned a long overdue demise" (191).

    2. More than four typed lines of any direct quotation must be indented. From the left margin, indent one inch on a computer or ten spaces on a typewriter. Double space the quotation, and don't use quotation marks. Insert a parenthetical citation two spaces after the last punctuation mark of the quotation.

      Peacey states that many authors of contemporary short fiction have not mastered the commonly accepted set of prescriptive rules by which standard American English is defined. She argues that such a lack of proficiency is detrimental to these authors' works and may well be damaging to the language as a whole. She makes this observation:

      Authors of fiction have always manipulated the grammar of their respective eras. Whether writing in dialect to validate certain characters or stylistically misusing a language, fictionists have routinely broken grammatical rules. However, the misuse of language by contemporary writers is more often the result of ignorance of grammar than it is of creative design. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is academic political correctness, many contemporary American authors simply do not know a grammar that delineates the language in which they write. Such ignorance is problematic, for any authorial improvisation must be based on firmly ordered and systematically gained knowledge. (198)

      As can be understood from this passage, Peacey clearly believes that the mastery of the rules precedes creativity.

    3. For two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each additional paragraph another quarter inch (or three typed spaces) beyond the original one inch or ten space indentation.

  • Two or More Works by the Same Author

    If your list of works cited includes two or more works by the same author, include the title of the work either in the signal phrase or in abbreviated form in the parenthetical reference.

    In his article "California and the West," reporter T. Christian Miller asserts that from 1990 to 1997, California spent roughly $26 million on conservation lands "to provide habitat for exactly 2.6 mountain lions" (A3). According to T. Christian Miller. "Mountain lions, also called pumas or cougars, range vast territories in search of food, sometimes as large as 100 square miles" ("Cougars" 1).

    Note:The title of an article from a periodical should be put in quotation marks, as in the examples. The title of a book should be underlined or italicized. When both the author and a short title must be given in parentheses, the citation should appear as follows:

    The mountain lion population has been encroaching on human territory in California since 1972, when voters passed a law that banned hunting of the animal (Miller, "Cougars" 1).

  • The Author Is Unknown

    If the author is not given, either use the complete title in a signal phrase or use a short form of the title in the parentheses.

    In California, fish and game officials estimate that since 1972 lion numbers have increased from 2,400 to at least 6,000 ("Lion" A21).

  • Authors With the Same Last Name

    If your list of works cited includes works by two or more authors with the same last name, include the first name of the author you are citing in the signal phrase or parenthetical reference.

    At least 66,665 lions were killed between 1907 and 1978 in Canada and the United States (Kevin Hansen 58).

  • A Novel, a Play, or a Poem

    1. In citing literary sources, include information that will enable readers to find the passage in various editions of the work. For a novel, put the page number first and then, if possible, indicate the part or chapter in which the passage can be found.

    Fitzgerald's narrator captures Gatsby in a moment of isolation: "A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host"(56: ch. 3).

    1. For a verse play, list the act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods. Use Arabic numerals unless your instructor prefers Roman numerals.

    In his famous advice to the players, Hamlet defines the purpose of theater, ". . . whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature" (3.2.21-23).

    1. For a poem, cite the part (if there are a number of parts) and the line numbers, separated by periods.

    When Homer's Odysseus comes to the hall of Circe, he finds his men ". . . mild / in her soft spell, fed on her drug of evil" (10.209-11).

  • The Bible

    If the book of the Bible that you are citing does not appear in the signal phrase, include it in parentheses along with the chapter and verse numbers.

    Consider the words of Solomon: "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink" (Prov. 25.21).

    Note: If it is relevant, you may also include the version of the Bible you are citing:(Prov. 25.21, RSV).

  • Two or More Works

    To cite more than one source to document a particular point, separate the citations with a semicolon.

    The dangers of mountain lions to humans have been well documented (Rychnovsky 40; Seidensticker 114; Williams30).

    Note:Multiple citations can be distracting to readers, however, so the techniques should not be overused. If you want to alert readers to several sources that discuss a particular topic, consider using an information note instead.

  • A Work without Page Numbers

    You may omit the page number if a work has no page numbers. Some electronic sources use paragraph numbers instead of page numbers. For such sources, use the abbreviation "par." or "pars." in the parentheses:(Smith, par. 4).

  • An Electronic Source

    To cite an electronic source in the text of your paper, follow the same rules as for print sources. If the source has an author and there is a page number, provide both.

    Using historical writings about leprosy as an example, Demaitre argues that ". . . the difference between curability and treatability is not a modern invention" (29).

    Note: Electronic sources often lack page numbers. If the source uses some other numbering system, such as paragraphs or sections, specify them, using an abbreviation ("par.," "sec.") or a full word ("screen"). Otherwise, use no number at all.

    A clip of the film Demolition d'un mur demonstrates that "cinema is all about transformation, not mere movement" (Routt, sec. 1). Volti writes, "As with all significant innovations, the history of the automobile shows that technological advance is fueled by more than economic calculation."

    Note:If the electronic source has no known author, either use the complete title in a signal phrase or use a short form of the title in parentheses.

    According to a Web page sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund, fourteen American children die from gunfire each day ("Child")

  • Use four ellipsis points to indicate the omission of an entire sentence within a quotation.

    Peacey claims that ". . . although a living language is constantly changing . . . . It is the author's duty to be aware of the language's grammatical conventions as well as to be knowledgeable of its linguistic history" (7).

  • Use four spaced periods to indicate an omission at the end of a direct quotation. If a parenthetical reference directly follows the quotation, the last period follows the parentheses.

    Lovejoy argues that ". . . authors are duty-bound to carry on the semiotic tradition as it is inherited from those authors who precede them . . ." (4).

  • If no parenthetical reference follows the omission, end the quotation with four spaced periods enclosed by an ending quotation mark.

    Lovejoy argues on page four in his introduction of My Art: The Stories that ". . . the author is duty-bound to carry on the semiotic tradition as presented to him by those authors who precede him . . . ."

  • Books

    Begin each reference at the left hand margin. List the author's last name first, then the first name followed by a period. Type two spaces, then list the title of the book underlined and with the first letter of all major words capitalized. A period follows (not underlined). Next list the place (city) of publication followed by a colon, one space, the publisher followed by a comma, and the year of publication followed by a period. Omit the words Publishing Company and Inc. from the publisher's name. If the reference is more than one line in length, indent one-half inch (computer formatted) or five spaces (typed) all lines following the first. Double space all lines.

    1. Book by one Author

    Hyde, Bernard. Perspectives on Literature: The New Historical Criticism in America. Peoria: Bancroft, 1992.

    Note:List two or more books by the same author alphabetically by title. Give the author's name in the first entry only. After the first entry, type three hyphens and a period. Skip two spaces, then list the title. (In the following example, UP is the accepted MLA abbreviation for University Press).

    Britt, Ponsiby. Representation of Indigenous North American Mammalia in Twentieth Century American Humor. Frostbite Falls: Rockland UP, 1963.

    ---. Character Stereotypes in Cold War American Literature. Frostbite Falls: Rockland UP, 1967.

    1. Books by two or more authors -- list authors as they are listed in the book. Reverse only the first author's name.

    Ciccone, Eva, Lorna Smith, and Natasha Fatale. Femininity and Feminism in Literature: Two Views. Boston: Singleton, 1991.

    1. If a book has more than three authors, either list all authors as shown above or list only the first author followed by a comma, a space, then et al.

    Jones, Sarah, Michael Williams, Charles Porter, William Mayer, and Anthony Rofollo. Scenes in a Coffee Shop. Toronto: Middleman, 1996.


    Jones, Sarah, et al. Scenes in a Coffee Shop. Toronto: Middleman, 1996.

    1. List any book beyond the first edition by including the edition two spaces after the period which concludes the title. Do not underline the designation for the edition.

    Young, Keith. Symbols of Morality. 4th ed. Scranton: Crowell, 1976.

    1. For an author's work cited in a textbook, anthology, or other full-length work, list according to the author of the cited work within the anthology. Typically, such a cited work would be an article, an essay, a short story, or a poem, so enclose the title of the cited work within quotation marks. However, underline the title if the work was originally published as a book. Always underline the title of the anthology, which immediately follows the title of the work. Include the page numbers of the anthology in which the cited work appears.

  • Editor

    An entry for an editor is similar to that for an author except that the name is followed by a comma and the abbreviation "ed." for "editor." If there is more than one editor, use the abbreviation "eds." for "editors."

    Kitchen, Judith, and Mary Paumier Jones, eds. In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction. New York: Norton, 1996.

  • Author with an Editor

    Begin with the author and title, followed by the name of the editor. In this case the abbreviation "Ed." means "Edited by," so it is the same for one or multiple editors.

    Wells, Ida B. The Memphis Diary. Ed. Miriam DeCosta-Willis. Boston: Beacon, 1995.

  • Translation

    List the entry under the name of the author, not the translator. After the title, write "Trans." (for "Translated by") and the name of the translator.

    Mahfouz, Naguib. Arabian Nights and Days. Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

  • Unknown Author

    Begin with the title. Alphabetize the entry by the first word of the title other than A, An, or The.

    Oxford Essential World Atlas. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

  • Edition Other Than the First

    If you are citing an edition other than the first, include the number of the edition after the title: 2nd ed., 3rd ed., and so on.

    Boyce, David George. The Irish Question and British Politics, 1868-1996. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1996.

  • Multivolume Work

    Include the total number of volumes before the city and publisher, using the abbreviation "vols."

    Conway, Jill Ker, ed. Written by Herself. 2 vols. New York: Random, 1996.

    Note: If your paper cites only one of the volumes, give the volume number before the city and publisher and give the total number of volumes in the work after the date.

    Conway, Jill Ker, ed. Written by Herself. Vol. 2. New York: Random, 1996. 2 vols.

  • Encyclopedia or Dictionary

    Articles in well-known dictionaries and encyclopedias are handled in abbreviated form. Simply list the author of the article (if there is one), the title of the article, the title of the reference work, the edition number, if any, and the date of the edition.

    "Sonata." Encyclopaedia Britannica. 15th ed. 1997.

    Note: Volume and page numbers are not necessary because the entries are arranged alphabetically and therefore are easy to locate. If a reference work is not well known, provide full publishing information as well.

  • The Bible

    The Bible is not included in the list of works cited. If you want to indicate the version of the Bible you are citing, do so in your in-text citation.

  • Work in an Anthology

    Present the information in this order, with each item followed by a period: author of the selection; title of the selection; title of the anthology; editor of the anthology, preceded by "Ed." (meaning "Edited by"); city, publisher, and date; page numbers on which the selection appears.

    Malouf, David. "The Kyogle Line." The Oxford Book of Travel Stories. Ed. Patricia Craig. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. 390-96.

    Note:If an anthology gives the original publication information for a selection and if your instructor prefers that you use it, cite that information first. Follow with "Rpt. in" (for "Reprinted in"), the title, editor, and publication information for the anthology, and the page numbers in the anthology on which the selection appears.

    Rodriguez, Richard. "Late Victorians." Harper's Oct. 1990: 57-66. Rpt. in The Best American Essays 1991. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Ticknor, 1991. 119-34.

  • Two or More Works From the Same Anthology

    If you wish, you may cross-reference two or more works from the same anthology. Provide a separate entry for the anthology with complete publication information.

    Craig, Patricia, ed. The Oxford Book of Travel Stories. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

    Then list each selection separately, giving the author and title of the selection followed by a cross-reference to the anthology. The cross-reference should include the last name of the editor of the anthology and the page numbers in the anthology on which the selection appears.

    Desai, Anita. "Scholar and Gypsy." Craig 251-73.

    Malouf, David. "The Kyogle Line." Craig 390-96.

  • Foreword, Introduction, Preface, or Afterword

    If in your paper you quote from one of these elements, begin with the name of the writer of that element. Then identify the element being cited, neither underlined nor in quotation marks, followed by the title of the complete book, the book's author, and the book's editor, if any. After the publication information, give the page numbers on which the foreword, introduction, preface, or afterword appears.

    Kennedy, Edward M. Foreword. Make a Difference. Henry W. Foster, Jr., and Alice Greenwood. New York: Scribner, 1997. 9-15.

  • Book with a Title within Its Title

    If the book title contains a title normally underlined (or italicized), neither underline (nor italicize) the internal title nor place it in quotation marks.

    Vanderham, Paul. James Joyce and Censorship: The Trials of Ulysses. New York: New York UP, 1997.

    Note:If the title within the title is normally enclosed within quotation marks, retain the quotation marks and underline (or italicize) the entire title.

    Faulkner, Dewey R. Twentieth Century Interpretations of "The Pardoner's Tale." Englewood Cliffs: Spectrum-Prentice, 1973.

  • Book in a Series

    Before the publication information, cite the series name as it appears on the title page followed by the series number, if any.

    Malena, Anne. The Dynamics of Identity in Francophone Caribbean Narrative. Francophone Cultures and Literatures Ser. 24. New York: Lang, 1998.

  • Republished Book

    After the title of the book, cite the original publication date followed by the current publication information. If the republished book contains new material, such as an introduction or afterword, include that information after the original date.

    McClintock, Walter. Old Indian Trails. 1926. Foreword William Least Heat Moon. Boston: Houghton, 1992.

  • Publisher's Imprint

    If a book was published by an imprint of a publishing company, cite the name of the imprint followed by a hyphen and the publisher's name. The name of the imprint usually precedes the publisher's name on the title page.

    Coles, Robert. The Moral Intelligence of Children: How to Raise a Moral Child. New York: Plume-Random, 1997.

  • Translation

    List the entry under the name of the author, not the translator. After the title, write "Trans." (for "Translated by") and the name of the translator.

    Mahfouz, Naguib. Arabian Nights and Days. Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

  • Periodicals

    Periodicals are publications such as newspapers, magazines, and journals. Generally, list the author(s), title of article in quotation marks, name of the journal underlined, series number (if relevant), volume number (for journals), issue number (if needed), date of publication, and inclusive page numbers not preceded by "p." or "pp." If the article is not published on consecutive pages, include only the page number on which the article first appears, followed by a + sign with no space in between.

  • Journals

    Many scholarly journals are paged continuously throughout the year. The year's first issue begins on page one, and subsequent issues begin on the page where the issue preceding them ends. Therefore, listing the month of publication is unnecessary. Instead, list the volume number followed by the year of publication in parentheses. Then include a colon followed by page number(s) on which the article appears.

    Gregory, Norman. "Australian Aboriginal Dialects." The Journal of Modern Languages 75 (1987): 74-101.

    However, some journals page each issue separately. In such cases, include in the bibliographic citation the volume number immediately followed by a period, which is immediately followed by the issue number.

    Douglas, Oliver. "Gentrification of Rural Lands: Migration Beyond the Suburb." The American Quarterly 18.2 (1969): 12-24.

  • Magazines

    1. Weekly

      For a magazine published weekly or biweekly, follow the general directions for periodicals, but include the entire date with the day first, followed by the month (abbreviated) and year. Do not include an issue or volume number.

    Ziffel, Arnold. "Confessions of an Overeater." Pound Watchers Weekly 8 June 1970: 14-17.

    1. Monthly

      Follow the directions for a weekly magazine, but do not include the day of publication.

    Douglas, Lisa. "To Live on Park Avenue." Urban Life Sept. 1970: 36-44.

  • Newspaper

    List the author(s); title of the article in quotation marks, name of newspaper as it appears on the masthead omitting any introductory article such as "the," the complete date of publication -- day, month, and year, a colon, and a page number(s) (including section designation such as A and B or 1 and 2 if included) as listed in the newspaper. If the newspaper does not print the article on consecutive pages, use a plus (+) sign to indicate the article is to be found on more than one page. Omit any volume or issue numbers.

    1. Lettered Sections

    Charles, Raymond. "School Administration Closes Middle School Library." The Chronicle of S Learning 12 Sept. 1990: A1-A6.

    1. Numbered Sections

    Wilbert, Kenneth. "Writer Searches America for Lost Hope." Mecklenburg Tribune 24 Aug. 1987, sec. 2: 1+.

  • For as long as there have been writers, there have been texts that have been challenged, censored, burned, and banned. The stories of banned literature do not just belong in the history books; even today, some of the most influential texts in our bookstores and libraries are currently being challenged or have been challenged at some point before. Here we take a look at fifteen significant poems, poetry collections, and poets that have been censored and banned throughout history. Find out more about these books and others during Banned Books Week, September 24 to 30, 2017.

    Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), Charles Baudelaire

    As soon as Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal was published in June of 1857, thirteen of its 100 poems were arraigned for inappropriate content. On August 20, 1857, French lawyer Ernest Pinard, who had also famously prosecuted French author Gustave Flaubert, prosecuted Baudelaire for the collection.

    The court banned six of the erotic poems: “Lesbos,” “Femmes damnés,” Le Léthé,” “À celle qui est trop gaie,” “Les Bijoux,” and “Les Métamorphoses du Vampire.” The offensiveness of the texts, the court held, lay not only in their context, but also in their “realism.” According to the judges, the poems “necessarily lead to the excitement of the senses by a crude realism offensive to public decency.”

    Baudelaire was charged with a fine of 300 (later reduced to 50) francs, and Les Fleurs du mal suffered from the controversy, becoming known only as a depraved, pornographic work.

    In 1861, a second, enlarged edition of Les Fleurs du mal was published, but the six banned poems would not be republished again until Baudelaire's 1866 collection Les Épaves, published in Belgium. The official ban on the poems was not revoked until 1949.

    “We Real Cool,”Gwendolyn Brooks

    One of Gwendolyn Brooks’s most famous poems, “We Real Cool,” was banned in schools in Mississippi and West Virginia in the 1970s for the penultimate sentence in the poem: “We / Jazz June.” The school districts banned the poem for the supposed sexual connotations of the word “jazz.”

    However, Brooks herself maintained that that interpretation was erroneous. As she was quoted as saying in Conversations with Gwendolyn Brooks (University Press of Mississippi, 2003): “I didn’t mean that at all. I meant that these young men would have wanted to challenge anything that was accepted by ‘proper’ people, so I thought of something that is accepted by almost everybody, and that is summertime, the month of June. So these pool players, instead of paying the customary respect to the loveliness of June—the flowers, blue sky, honeyed weather—wanted instead to derange it, to scratch their hands in it as if it were a head of hair. This is what went through my head; that is what I meant.

    “However, a space can be permitted for a sexual interpretation. Talking about different interpretations gives me a chance to say something I firmly believe—that poetry is for personal use. When you read a poem, you may not get out of it all that the poet put into it, but you are different from the poet. You’re different from everybody else who is going to read the poem, so you should take from it what you need. Use it personally.”

    Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    Though many are familiar with the poems and fantastical story of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, perhaps not as well known is the book’s history of censorship. The book has been challenged and banned several times since its publication in 1865, largely due to its alleged promotion of drug use. In the book, Alice encounters a caterpillar who sits on top of a mushroom smoking hookah. Alice herself becomes exposed to psychedelic, mind- and body-altering experiences, in which she grows and shrinks in size (undoubtedly inspired by Carroll’s own experiences with a rare neurological disorder that causes hallucinations and affects the sufferer’s perception of size—later named Alice in Wonderland Syndrome).

    However, it was not the drug references but the talking animals that ultimately got Carroll banned in China in 1931. Though characters like the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit remain amongst the most popular in Carroll’s Wonderland novels, General Ho Chien, the governor of Hunan province, deemed it offensive that animals were anthropomorphized and placed on the same level as humans.

    Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

    In the late 1300s, Geoffrey Chaucer, considered the “father of English literature,” wrote Canterbury Tales, a humorous and critical examination of twenty-nine archetypal characters of late medieval English society. The text drew immediate criticism due to its critical look at the medieval church, as well as its obscene language and sexual innuendos, the latter of which remained a point of contention even centuries later.

    In 1873, Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, achieved a federal bill that banned the mailing of “every obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter writing, print or other publication of an indecent character.” The Comstock Act, officially known as the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act, banned many world classics, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, for its sexual content.

    Mahmoud Darwish

    Though he was widely considered the Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish frequently faced controversy and censorship with his work. As a young man, Darwish faced house arrest and imprisonment for his activism. He later became increasingly involved in politics, openly criticizing Arab governments and Palestinian politicians. He lived in exile from Israel for twenty-six years, until he was able to return in 1996.

    In 2000, Yossi Sarid, then the education minister of Israel, suggested including works by Darwish in the school curriculum. But right-wing members of President Ehud Barak’s government threatened to introduce a motion of no-confidence. Barak said Israel was “not ready” to teach Darwish in the schools. After Darwish had learned of the controversy, he said, “It is difficult to believe that the most militarily powerful country in the Middle East is threatened by a poem.”

    The issue of Darwish’s censorship came up again in 2014, when his works were removed from a major book fair in Saudi Arabia for containing “blasphemous passages.”

    Howl,Allen Ginsberg

    In the mid-1950s, Allen Ginsberg began writing “Strophes,” which he later renamed “Howl,” based on a peyote-inspired vision he had of the ancient Phoenician god Moloch. On October 7, 1955, Ginsberg publicly read part of “Howl” for the first time at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, to the praise and acclaim of his fellow Beat writers. The following day, City Lights publisher and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti sent Ginsberg a telegram asking for the manuscript of the poem. Anticipating a controversial release, before City Lights published the manuscript, Ferlinghetti asked the American Civil Liberties Union if it would defend the book in court if he were prosecuted.

    Howl and Other Poems was then published on November 1, 1956, as part of the City Lights Pocket Poets Series. With its long, winding lines; profane language; and frank, racy content about drug use and sexuality, Howl was deemed obscene and Ferlinghetti was arrested and taken to court.

    In the case of People of California v. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, on October 3, 1957, Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that Ferlinghetti was not guilty. The defense included reviews praising the collection and the analysis of nine literary experts, all of whom agreed that the work had “literary merit, that it represented a sincere effort by the author to present a social picture, and that the language used was relevant to the theme.”

    Nazim Hikmet

    Considered Turkey’s greatest modern poet, acclaimed both nationally and internationally for his works, Nazim Hikmet was a Communist who was stripped of his citizenship for his political views. His work, which praised his country and the common man, was deemed “subversive” and banned in Turkey from 1938 to 1965.

    Hikmet himself spent several years in Turkish prisons and in exile. He wrote many of his most popular poems during these times, such as his masterpiece Human Landscapes from My Country, which he wrote while imprisoned from 1938 to 1950.

    Despite the controversy surrounding his works, Hikmet’s poems won the praise and support of artists from all over the world, including Vladimir Mayakovsky, Pablo Neruda, Pablo Picasso, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Now Hikmet’s work is available in more than fifty languages, and he is praised as a major figure in modern poetry.

    D. H. Lawrence

    D. H. Lawrence was no stranger to censorship; his novels Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Rainbow were censored and banned. However, many of Lawrence’s poems came under fire as well. His poems—such as "All of Us," a sequence of thirty-one war poems—attacked politicians and criticized World War I and imperial policy, but the censorship and editing of the series ultimately rendered the works unreadable.

    Lawrence, who wrote poetry from 1905 until his death in 1930, struggled to get his poems into print, especially after the controversy surrounding his other published works of the time. It wasn’t until decades later that Lawrence’s works began to be published in their entirety.

    Federico García Lorca

    Federico García Lorca is one of the most important Spanish poets and dramatists of the twentieth century, the author of such celebrated works as Romancero Gitano (The Gypsy Ballads), which was reprinted seven times during his lifetime. But his work was still the object of censorship in Spain in the early 1900s. Lorca was openly homosexual and known for his outspoken socialist views, and his works were deemed dangerous for their sexual content, language, and political underpinnings.

    In 1936, Lorca was shot to death by Spanish nationalists due to his support of the deposed Republican government. Lorca’s work was burned in Granada’s Plaza del Carmen and banned from Francisco Franco’s Spain. His books remained censored until Franco’s death in 1975.

    Amores (Loves) & Ars amatoria (Art of Love), Ovid

    Ovid, best known for his epic poem Metamorphoses, also considered himself a “teacher of love,” so at the end of the first century BC, he wrote Ars amatoria, a guide to love and courtship for his Roman contemporaries. The poem is split into three books; the first two books instruct men how to meet, seduce, and keep a woman, and the third gives comparable advice to women. In 8 AD Caesar Augustus banished Ovid to Tomis on the charge of what Ovid describes as “a poem and a mistake.” The poem in question may very well have been the risqué work, but some believe it may have been Metamorphoses.

    In 1497, Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican monk living in Florence, Italy, began burning all objects he found immoral and corruptive in what would be called the Burning of the Vanities. All of Ovid’s works were included in the pyre.

    Ovid’s works were challenged again a century later in Elizabethan England as Amores, elegiac poems in a set of three books that describe one of Ovid’s affairs, was proscribed in the 1599 Bishops’ Ban. Ordered by John Whitgift, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Richard Bancroft, the bishop of London, the Bishops’ Ban resulted into the cessation of the printing of questionable books and the destruction of existing copies of those texts. Christopher Marlowe’s translation of the Amores was included in the ban.

    More recently, Ars amatoria was one of the books proscribed in the American Library Association catalogue in 1904, and the U.S. Customs Service banned the import of Ars amatoria as late as 1930.

    Various Plays by William Shakespeare

    Although undoubtedly a stalwart of English literature, Shakespeare has not been immune to various standards of censorship and banning. The Bard’s words have not all been music to the ears of some people, who have had classics like Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear withdrawn from school reading lists because of the obscenities, as well as the references to sex and violence. These references were not the full extent of the criticism Shakespeare’s plays have gotten from censors over the years; in the early 1800s, dialogue that in any way incriminated the monarchy or members of the clergy, as well as scenes that addressed differences in social classes, was considered risqué and in bad taste.

    Thomas Bowdler was the first to censor Shakespeare’s works on a grand scale. In 1807, Bowdler published the first edition of Family Shakespeare, which included a version of Hamlet with large chunks of dialogue cut out. Bowdler and his sister, Harriet Bowdler, had removed what they considered profanities, obscenities, and indecencies that they believed detracted from the “genius” of the work. Bowdler wrote that nothing “can afford an excuse for profaneness or obscenity; and if these could be obliterated, the transcendent genius of the poet would undoubtedly shine with more unclouded luster.”

    While censorship of Shakespeare’s plays certainly occurred in the past, the practice is hardly ancient history. The problematic The Merchant of Venice was banned in the 1930s in schools in Buffalo and Manchester, New York, for its anti-Semitism, but in 1949, a lower court in New York refused to uphold the ban. Still, the issue arose again in 1980, when the play was banned in schools in Midland, Michigan.

    In 1996, a school in New Hampshire banned Twelfth Night—in which a young woman disguises herself as a man and attracts a countess—under the school board’s Prohibition of Alternative Lifestyle Instruction Act for allegedly promoting an alternative lifestyle that isn’t good for children to learn about.

    More recently, in 2011, according to Arizona state law A.R.S.-15-112, The Tempest—in which a banished duke with magical servants seeks to reclaim his thronewas deemed inappropriate for schools, as the law prohibited courses that “promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

    A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein

    Known for his whimsical illustrations and verses about mischievous children, transformed adults, and strange monsters and beasts, Shel Silverstein published his second poetry collection, A Light in the Attic, in 1981. The book spent 182 weeks on TheNew York Times general nonfiction bestseller list and spent fourteen weeks in the number one spot.

    However, Silverstein’s books were accused of being not for children, encouraging bad behavior, and addressing topics some people deemed inappropriate for kids. Challengers at two elementary schools in Wisconsin said one poem “encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them,” and that other poems “glorified Satan, suicide, and cannibalism, and also encouraged children to be disobedient.”

    The book was so contested that it became number fifty-one on the list of 100 most frequently challenged books in the 1990s.


    The Greek poet Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos and is famously known for her poems of romantic longing and her affairs with other women. Though Plato referred to her as the “tenth muse,” her sexuality occasionally overshadowed her work, which was frequently viewed as obscene and objectionable. In 180 AD, the Assyrian ascetic Tatian decried Sappho as a “whorish woman, love-crazy, who sang about her own licentiousness.”

    Before it was destroyed, the library of Alexandria housed nine collections of Sappho’s poems. But in 380 AD, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, the bishop of Constantinople, ordered her work burned. Later, in 1073, Pope Gregory VII also ordered that her work be publicly burned. Most of her work was destroyed; only one complete poem survived—until the discovery of some more of her poem fragments by scholars in 1898.

    Dlatego żyjemy (That’s What We Live For), Wislawa Szymborska

    Wislawa Szymborksa is considered one of the major modern Polish poets; she published several poetry collections and was awarded a Nobel Prize in literature in 1996. Szymborska spent much of her life in a Stalinist Poland, in which socialism was enforced upon Polish artists.

    In 1949 her first book, Dlatego żyjemy, was set for publication but was banned for being too preoccupied with the war and not loyal enough to the socialist regime. The book would not be published until 1952. By 1957, however, Szymborska had renounced Communism and her early poetry, which she viewed as no longer representative of her as a writer.

    Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

    Seminal to the history of American verse, Leaves of Grass, a frank and sensual celebration of America and the human body, would later be considered a classic that established Whitman as one of the originators of a uniquely American poetic voice.

    Fellow writer and critic Ralph Waldo Emerson attempted to persuade Whitman to drop some controversial, sexualized passages, but Whitman refused. However, when it was first published in 1855, Emerson wrote a letter to Whitman praising the collection: “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.”

    Many critics did not give such a warm welcome to the book, which they denounced as crude and offensive. The Watch and Ward Society in Boston and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice pressured booksellers to suppress the sale of the book, and the Society of Suppression of Vice then sought to obtain a legal ban of a new edition of the book in Boston, which caused it to be famously “banned in Boston” in 1882.

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