“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”
January 29 is Thomas Paine Day, which is a time to remember one of the most important, but often forgotten, writers of the American Revolution. His pamphlet Common Sense was one of the main reasons that the majority of colonists came to support the revolution against England and for independence.
He was born and raised in Britain, and he became embroiled in legal problems for advocating the abolition of royalty. Afterwards, he would support the French Revolution, and he also ran into problems there, only to be imprisoned. He was later released because of influence by the American government.
He was a revolutionary thinker and a representative of the Romantic movement, in which individual rights and revolution in all aspects of life and society were encouraged.
Paine went on to write several other important works, including Rights Of Man and The Age of Reason. If you have not read these works, I recommend all of them!
Like many of the other intellectuals of this time, Paine was a Deist and let his ideas be known. As a result of his forthcoming, he suffered being ostracized by many of those whom he had helped.
He should be remembered, however, for his contributions to the United States of America, to human rights, and to literature.
(https://en.wikipedia.org George Romney — Artist)
I was working on my book order and syllabus for a class I will teach next semester, a special topics course, Banned Books, and in looking over various sites that detail books that have been challenged and banned, both in the Unites States and throughout the world, I was struck by the sheer enormity of the attempts by people ranging from parents to churches to governments to control what people may read and the courage and strength of those who have opposed such efforts.
If you are interested in this subject, I recommend several good sites: http://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/banned-books-around-world#.VFWZdckQM1J and
http://www.ala.org/bbooks/ among others.
One of the issues in creating a course and its syllabus is deciding what books to include, always a difficult task, especially when so many books have either been directly banned or challenged. I wanted to make certain that I included books that have been attacked for a variety of reasons. The novels I chose were banned/challenged for motives ranging from sexuality to religion to government issues. Without giving the entirety of the syllabus, among the books I chose to include are D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, Talisma Nasrin’s Shame, and Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man. As I mentioned, I had to leave many books out that I would have preferred to include, mainly because of size. The reading list is already intensive, and since this is an undergraduate course, I have to consider length of weekly readings. It is always a dilemma in choosing texts.
What is clear though is the courage some authors have to write texts in places where their lives can be put at risk as well as their readers for creating and reading novels. Both the courage of a writer like Talisma Nasrin and a reader and activist like Malala Yousafzai are beyond question. This integrity and bravery have been exhibited by writers and readers for centuries, and I am humbled in their presence.
We, as writers and readers, must always remember that the freedom to read is a crucial part of life, and we need to be vigilant against those who would deny that basic freedom.
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