Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTXLit5RznM
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Speakers: Lionel Shriver, Tomiwa Owolade
Host: Inaya Folarin Iman
News this month that a school in Edinburgh is to cease teaching Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, on the grounds of its ‘white saviour narrative’, should make us ask whether Ray Bradbury was right when he said, five decades ago, that “there is more than one way to burn a book, and the world is full of people running about with lit matches”?
While we may have moved on from the prudish attitudes towards sexuality and profanity which saw works like Lady Chatterley’s Lover banned, it is worth pondering whether the old matches have been fully extinguished. Perhaps more overt, state censorship carried out by authoritarian regimes, such as Turkey, Hungary and Thailand, blinds us to the subtler ways in which censoriousness operates in publishing in the Anglosphere. This can manifest itself through accusations of cultural appropriation and stereotyping in the creation of characters on the page, or demands for ‘cancellation’ due to personal misdemeanours in the author’s own life.
We are delighted to be joined by two eminent speakers, the novelist and columnist Lionel Shriver and the writer and critic Tomiwa Owolade, to explore the differing threats from de jure, or legally imposed, censorship, and de facto censorship, perpetrated by individuals and private companies. We will consider whether our current cultural clashes shackle or stimulate the literary imagination and ask, is one person’s ‘censorship’ another person’s ‘sensitivity’?
Lionel Shriver is a prolific journalist with a fortnightly column in The Spectator, Lionel Shriver has written widely for the New York Times, the Guardian, the London Times, Prospect, the Financial Times, Harper’s Magazine, and many other publications. She has published the bestselling works of fiction The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, Big Brother, So Much for That, The Post-Birthday World, and the Orange-Prize winner We Need to Talk About Kevin (a 2011 feature film starring Tilda Swinton). Her most recent novel is Should We Stay or Should We Go (2021). Her work has been translated into over 30 languages.
Tomiwa is a writer and critic who lives in London. His work has appeared in the Times, Spectator, Evening Standard, Unherd, Quillette and Literary Review, among other publications. He holds degrees in English Literature from Queen Mary, University of London and University College London, and has written extensively on books, politics and racial identity.
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