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“Anti-white,” “anti-Catholic,” obscene and
blasphemous, “centered around negative activity,”
“defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the
disabled,” or simply a “filthy, filthy book” and
“trash”: This is only a brief list of reasons forwarded
by various school boards, concerned parents, and other watchful
spirits across the United States who were – and still are
– opposed to including The Catcher in the Rye in High School
or College reading lists. Holden Caulfield has thus met a fate
comparable to James Joyce’s "Ulysses" and D.H.
Lawrence’s "Lady Chatterley’s Lover," being at
once contested and cherished, cursed and hailed.
This essay sheds light on the legitimacy of such a book ban, yet from a classic philosopher’s perspective. In his vision of the ideal republic, Plato had not only dealt with the question of the best ruler or the principles of the community, but he also contemplated the role of the arts and artists for society. Thereby, he shared the concern of the contemporary censors in that he likewise wanted to protect children from indecency, specifically if transmitted by artists, and suggested that art should benefit the state and the individual. "Would The Catcher in the Rye" thus be banned from the ideal republic?
The answer to the above question shall not, however, rest with Plato alone. Contemporary thinkers and philosophers such as Richard Rorty and Martha C. Nussbaum have likewise reflected on the role of art and literature in the education of good citizens. Their ideas ultimately lead to the question whether modern democratic societies might not actually require allegedly offensive art and literature as a test to their own principles.
|type||book chapter (English)|
J.D. Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye", Plato, Martha C. Nussbaum, Richard Rorty; censorship
|book title||The catcher in the rye and philosophy : a book for bastards, morons, and madmen|
|date of appearance||2012|
|publisher||Open Court (Chicago)|
|series title||Popular Culture and Philosophy (71)|
|citation||Brühwiler, C. F. (2012). The Case against Salinger's Trash. In The catcher in the rye and philosophy : a book for bastards, morons, and madmen (pp. 165-174). Chicago: Open Court. - ISBN 978-0-8126-9800-8.|