Celebrate freedom to read at UT’s Banned Books Week Vigil, ‘Mark Twain Night’

October 16, 2012 | Events, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences, — Visual and Performing Arts, Honors
By Samantha Watson

When Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, he concentrated on the carefree lives of two young boys growing up — yet these classics have been banned by schools across the country.

“Huckleberry Finn particularly offended people who did not understand Twain’s sharp sense of humor, ear for local dialogue, or clever satire of society,” said Dr. Paulette D. Kilmer, UT professor of communication and coordinator of the University’s Banned Books Week event.

Shortly after Huckleberry Finn was published, the Concord Free Public Library banned it, saying the novel was “inelegant” and “trash of the veriest sort,” according to The New York Herald from March 18, 1885.

Although more than a century has passed since newspaper and magazine editors sparred about the literary value of Huckleberry Finn, many school boards and other administrators have felt that these books were bad for children to read because of the coarse language.

“Ironically, Twain did not write these books for children,” Kilmer said. “But over time, educators have taught young people lessons about human nature as well as literature by requiring their students to read these gems. For example, Huck Finn learns that ignorance and greed, not race, often make folks unworthy of respect.”

This sort of censorship happens all the time. Besides Twain’s works, books like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight are among a list of many titles that are banned or have been removed from circulation.

To bring awareness to this censorship and to celebrate the right to read, the American Library Association created Banned Books Week 30 years ago. For the last 15 years, UT has been a part of that event — and it’s that time of year again.

Alan Kitty as Mark Twain

On Thursday, Oct. 18, UT’s 15th Annual Banned Books Week Vigil will kick off the event. UT also will host “Mark Twain Night” Friday, Oct. 19, featuring Twain impersonator Alan Kitty.

Students, faculty and staff as well as community members are invited to to the third floor of Sullivan Hall for the free, public program Thursday. New presentations will begin every half hour from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and door prizes, including banned books, will be given away after each talk. Light refreshments will be offered all day.

On Friday, Kitty’s performance will take place in Libbey Hall from 7 to 9 p.m. The actor will present his original monologue, “Mark Twain’s Last Stand,” which contrasts his life as an author, speaker and social critic with his life as a husband and father.

Light refreshments will be served; there also will be a cash bar.

Tickets — $7.50 for students, $15 for one, $25 for two, and $100 for a table of eight — are available at utoledo.edu/boxoffice or by calling 419.530.2375.

Those who cannot afford to pay admission may contact Dr. Linda Smith at lsmith2@utnet.utoledo.edu to receive limited free tickets.

Kitty’s performance is made possible in part by a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Kilmer was head of the Banned Books Week Vigil Committee that consisted of Smith, Dr. Cynthia Ingham, Elaine Reeves, Arjun Sabharwal, Dr. Glenn Sheldon and Dr. Sumitra Srinivasan.

Many sponsors have provided food and door prizes; these include Career Services, the Department of English, the Department of Theatre and Film, General Libraries, Friends of the Library Foundation, the Honors College, Marketing and Communications, Office of the Dean of Students, the Communication Department, the UT Federal Credit Union, Rocket Copy, Lambda Pi Eta, UT Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, The Independent Collegian, UT Writer’s Guild, WXUT, Massage Therapist Ann Lumbrezer, Barry’s Bagels, Dunkin’ Donuts, Kroger, Dr. Mary Humphrys, New Sins Press, Phoenicia Cuisine, Yogurt U and Toledo Free Press.

UT Banned Books Week Vigil

Topics and speakers for the event, which will take place Thursday, Oct. 18, on the third floor Sullivan Hall, will be:

• 9 a.m. — “Celebrating Reading: Selections From The Princess Bride” by Joshua Manley, Pearl Grambell and Jasmine Townsend, members of the UT Writer’s Guild;

• 9:30 a.m. — “In the Name of Democracy: Resurgence of Censorship in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe” by Arjun Sabharwal, assistant professor and digital initiatives librarian;

• 10 a.m. — “From ‘Lucy’ to ‘2 Broke Girls’: TV and Its Cultural Impact” by Dr. David Tucker, associate professor of communication;

• 10:30 a.m. — “Google Bombs, SEO and Censorship” by Dr. Paul Many, professor of communication;

• 11 a.m. — “The War on Women … as Old as History” by Warren Woodbury, Toledo author;

• 11:30 a.m. — “Prison Education: What Is the Point?” by Dr. Renee Heberle, associate professor of political science;

• noon — “My Favorite Book” by Dr. William McMillen, assistant to the president;

• 1 p.m. — “Inequality and Democracy” by Dr. Carter Wilson, professor of political science;

• 1:30 p.m. — “Book Burning in Nazi Germany” by Dr. Larry Wilcox, professor of history, and Justin Pfeifer, student;

• 2 p.m. — “Grey Matter” by Dr. Ben Pryor, vice provost for academic program development;

• 2:30 p.m. — “Jeopardy!” by Vincent Scebbi, editor of The Independent Collegian;

• 3 p.m. — “Avoiding the Echo Chamber: The Benefit of Dissenting Opinion” by Sarah Ottney, managing editor of Toledo Free Press;

• 3:30 p.m. — “Thomas Jefferson’s Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” by Dr. Tom Barden, dean of the Honors College;

• 4 p.m. — “Babes in Pornland: The New Pornography Industry” by Dr. Sharon Barnes, associate professor of women’s and gender studies; and

• 4:30 p.m. — “Debased Ditties and Songs That Suffered Censorship” by Dr. Ed Lingan, assistant professor of theatre.

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