Sunday, July 14, 2013

Unbanned in Boston

"Crucially, Justice William Brennan wrote an opinion clarifying that a work could be obscene only if it were 'utterly without redeeming social value'; by virtue of its historical importance and literary merit, he stated, John Cleland’s novel was demonstrably not in this category. In dissenting opinions, Justice Tom Clark weighed in with an opinion on Fanny herself—'nothing but a harlot'—and Justice Byron White disagreed with Brennan’s assertion that literary value precluded obscenity, suggesting that a primary appeal to 'prurient interest' made a work obscene even if it could also claim some artistic worth. White worried that obscene material would proliferate 'if it has any literary style, if it contains any historical references or language characteristic of a bygone day, or even if it is printed or bound in an interesting way.'
"White was right to worry, as it turned out."

Ruth Graham in The Boston Globe looks back at the obscenity trial over Fanny Hill during the 1960s.

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