September 15, 2015

Banned Fucking Books


I have a thing against banned books. It's this fire in me. Burning. In my day-to-day life I do my best to try to see arguments from both sides—but I don't comprehend—can't comprehend—the concept. So I'm thrilled with the American Library Association's Banned Book Week. This year, the week is September 27th - October 3rd.

Their slogan: Defend the right to read.

I find the fact that we're working our way through Chaucer the perfect time to discuss banned, challenged, and censored titles.

Thrilling to my dirty little core is the fact that Chaucer contains some of the oldest known uses of arse, piss, shit, and cunt. (Spelled "queynte" which is quaint to me.) Why has Chaucer been banned? For obscenity/sexual content. Under the 1873 Comstock law, the book could not be sent through the mail. What is the 1873 law? Hold on. Let me tell you:

The Comstock Law is a federal act passed by the United States Congress on March 3, 1873, as the Act for the 'Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use. The Act criminalized usage of the U.S. Postal Service to send any of the following things: erotica, contraceptives.

Portions of this law were in place as late as 1972. No, really.

But honestly, from what I've read of Chaucer so far—and I have to say I'm loving the book—I think he would have been amused that his words were causing people to get their panties in a twist hundreds of years after he put quill to paper.

So now to our book club. Have you started? Are you with us? Where are you in the work? I'm still carrying the guilt at reading the translation. When I reach the end, I promise to try again with the original.

And what's up with the picture at the top of this page? Oh, this is the exciting entry from Gray for my Sex & Coffee contest. I am delighted with the images I've received so far. Please continue to pour coffee into my inbox. (You might drown out the letters I don't want to answer!)

If you're late to the game, here are the Chaucer posts:

Are you ready to Chaucer?
Tuesdays with Chaucer
The Bawdy Bookclub

There is no penalty for starting late. There's no slap on the wrist for missing a week. I'm as all-enclusive as I can be. Share your experiences reading the work. Express your emotions. I'm all ears.

XXX,
Alison


4 comments:

Jim Scovill said...

Given the words you've referenced I'm going to guess that you've read the Miller's and the Wife of Bath's tales. How good is my intuition?

Jim Scovill said...

The 3 uses of queinte in my edition are each given a different translation by the editor:
L332 - Ye shal han queinte right inogh at eve is translated as You shall have your fill of sex tonight
L447 - Is it for ye wolde have my queinte allone is tr. as fanny(vagina)
L515 - Is this matere a queinte fantasye is tr. as strange fantasy. In the context of lines 516 - 524, I originally interpreted this as sexual fantasy. Now that I see Chaucer's pun the whole section is much stronger.
How are these lines written in other versions?

Jim Scovill said...

I am currently reading the tale about Seinte Cecilia and her good werkes.

Miz Angell said...

Oh dear. I'm so behind. I didn't think this through. I thought I'd have time... :(