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 Post subject: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 03:28 
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I've been amusing myself be re-reading some Georgette Heyer (Friday's Child and Cotillion to be precise), and I remembered that in the "Regency" slang episode, the naughty CS middles aer advised to read Heyer to gain knowledge of that era.

My re-read thus far has only consisted of two books, but already there have been prostitutes, mistresses and illegitimate children. Given that EBD is extremely conservative, would there really have been any Heyer books in the library?
Would, say Shakespeare, Dickens and Classical literature, been censored? Could Stacie really have become a Classical scholar without being exposed to "unsuitable" material?

We are told there is little policing of Joey's reading, however there are multiple instances of girlsbeing caught with "forbidden" books.

What would and wouldn't have been suitable? Would, say, Wuthering Heights with its extra-marital passions be considered beyond the pale?

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 08:05 
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I've wondered about this as well. In Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester tries to commit bigamy, then asks Jane to become his mistress, and is quite open about the fact that Adele is the illegitimate child of a woman who had several lovers. Jane Austen's books include references to a woman (Colonel Brandon's childhood sweetheart) being seduced by several men and having an illegitimate child, a couple (Lydia Bennet and Mr Wickham) living together out of wedlock, a woman leaving her husband and running away with her lover (Maria Rushworth and Henry Crawford), etc etc. And all sorts of things go on in Shakespeare's plays!

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 10:46 
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They certainly do Mansfield Park, as Richenda mentions it in a letter to her father. I don't see how they could have done a censored version of it though, as there wouldn't have been much left for them to study!

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 11:34 
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I have various recollections of the "naughty" kids in the class trying to embarrass teachers by saying that they didn't understand what was meant by Catherine of Aragon's first marriage not having been consummated, or that they didn't understand what Dido and Aeneas had been doing when they were alone together in the cave during a thunderstorm, and would the teacher please explain. I assume that things were worded differently in CS lessons, though :lol:.

The girls must have been aware that not all children were born to married couples, and that people were sometimes deserted by their spouses, and even that people - horror of horrors! - sometimes lived together without being legally married, but you'd think only as things that were only spoken about in hushed voices, and accompanied by significant looks and mutterings about "little ears" being present. I'd love to know how they went on with discussing storylines like Maria Rushworth running off with Henry Crawford. Possibly with the emphasis on how she was cast out by society!

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 11:59 
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To the best of my recollection no classics were censored at my school in the 1950s. We read a book by Dickens every year, starting with Great Expectations at the age of 11. Wuthering Heights was definitely on the shelves of the Junior Library because I remember looking at it during a detention. Jane Eyre was read in the second year as a class reading book.

In the boarding houses we had lighter reading available to us and our library there certainly contained Heyer and D.K Broster, Nevil Shute, Coolidge, Nesbit, Alcott, much Wodehouse, John Buchan and of course lots more classics .

We were allowed to bring back three reading books from home, these were checked for suitability by the housemistress when we arrived; we could lend them freely amongst ourselves.

I remember in my final year much discussion about the pending publication in paperback of an unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterley's Lover and whether the seniors would be allowed to read it. I left before it became available and don't know how the matter was resolved.

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 12:09 
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Alison H wrote:
I have various recollections of the "naughty" kids in the class trying to embarrass teachers by saying that they didn't understand what was meant by Catherine of Aragon's first marriage not having been consummated, or that they didn't understand what Dido and Aeneas had been doing when they were alone together in the cave during a thunderstorm, and would the teacher please explain. I assume that things were worded differently in CS lessons, though .


That reminds me of being in Sunday School (very fundamentalist Protestant Sunday School): we were told that Potiphar's wife wanted to "run away" with Joseph, that "God provided" Adam & Eve's sons with wives, and that "bosom" meant "pocket"....I also had a university lecturer who chose to teach Apuleius' The Golden Ass but insisted on skipping all the sex bits (i.e. a significant portion!...wonder what Stacie made of that piece of literature). Given that Joey didn't notice that Madge was pregnant, I suppose a lot of things could be "explained away" without being entirely explicit or factual! It'd be extremely hard to do that when the text itself is completely unambiguous though...

Also (from the Exploits thread)- what forbidden book do we think Thekla was reading? She doesn't strike me as the trashy novel type of girl....

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 13:22 
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I remember watching The Pallisers with my younger brother back in the 70s. He was bemused by the fact that Phineas Finn's Irish Mary was having a baby when they' weren't married. He knew the mechanics but not the motivation (he was nine) and completely puzzled by the notion that it was meant to be fun...

Edited to say - what about that dreadful film version of Troy with Brad Pitt where Patroclus was Achilles' 'cousin'? That was quite recent.


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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 14:50 
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I think there would be a distinction between 'classics' and 'modern' literature. So, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Oliver Twist are fine, but Lady Chatterley would not. Nor would any modern popular literature with overt sexual mentions. And the more outrageous regency novels would also be a no-no, while it wouldn't surprise me if some of Shakespeare was Bowlderised.


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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 15:09 
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Loryat wrote:
.....while it wouldn't surprise me if some of Shakespeare was Bowlderised.

Definitely not where I was! U.A.Fanthorpe who took me through English O and A levels would be rolling in her grave at the mere suggestion... :shock:

And my guess (and fervent hope) is that Madge would not have agreed to it either.

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 15:51 
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cestina wrote:
Loryat wrote:
.....while it wouldn't surprise me if some of Shakespeare was Bowlderised.

Definitely not where I was! U.A.Fanthorpe who took me through English O and A levels would be rolling in her grave at the mere suggestion... :shock:

And my guess (and fervent hope) is that Madge would not have agreed to it either.


We studied Othello at A level; the school copies were very definitely Bowdlerized, much to our English teacher's wrath. She insisted that those of us who knew their parents had a Complete Shakespeare send home for them; I think we ended up with enough unexpurgated copies to share! But we also studied part of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: the Prologue and one story. The exact one escapes me now, but I while I know it wasn't one of the more lurid ones, I don't think our copies were Bowdlerized ones.


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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 17:39 
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As late as a University course in which everyone was over 20, I had a Latin prof who instructed us to skip the pages of Suetonius he considered "unsuitable for mixed company." No convenient "school edition" at that point!

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 18:03 
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cestina wrote:
Loryat wrote:
.....while it wouldn't surprise me if some of Shakespeare was Bowlderised.

Definitely not where I was! U.A.Fanthorpe who took me through English O and A levels would be rolling in her grave at the mere suggestion... :shock:

And my guess (and fervent hope) is that Madge would not have agreed to it either.


Nor would Hilda!! :shock: Like your school, cestina, mine also, in the late fifties/early sixties, never left out or changed anything in Shakespeare or the classics, even lower down the school. It was a convent school!, :roll: so things like Mary being a virgin, the woman taken in adultery etc, were so much part of our vocab that we just took them for granted. All the usual classics were read by us for exams, and those and everything else from Shute and Buchan to Austen and the Brontes were available in the library.

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 19:16 
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Alison H wrote:
I have various recollections of the "naughty" kids in the class trying to embarrass teachers by saying that they didn't understand what was meant by Catherine of Aragon's first marriage not having been consummated


I love it when kids try to do that to me, I am virtually unshockable and will happily explain in great detail, using correct terminology and occasionally diagrams! They try it once and then never again. My favorite example is when a yr 9 kid asked me about necrophilia, by the time I had finished explaining, with reference to a variety of serial killers, he was quite pale and avoided looking me in the eye for the next couple of weeks.

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 21:01 
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My mother's Hamlet was very severely censored, and she didn't know until I took it to school and didn't have half the lines in it that everyone else did. My teacher was amazed.

I was also in a convent school but there was NO explanation given of words like 'virgin' and 'adultery' - we were expected to say them every five minutes (prayers, reciting commandments, etc) but not allowed to know what they meant! We learned that kind of thing outside school. (Our sex ed consisted of 'don't marry a Protestant as you won't enjoy sex' and 'don't shave your armpits', so no help there!)

I remember having a book about The Body when I was really small that said a little bit about babies and 'when two people are married...' - I asked my mum 'but how does your body know that you're married?' It really confused me! (Couldn't get an answer to that one either!)


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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2017, 22:33 
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I wonder how much of it comes down to how clearly things are spelt out in the text.

Children are pretty accepting of things that they don't understand and just get on with the story - skating over the "real" meaning and pronounciations (something we've talked about in reference to the CS books themselves). They also "translate" things using their own experience - what might look like obvious references to an adult about extra- and pre-marital relations may well be interpreted by a child purely in the light of friendship (see the Archbishop's "great friend" - clear to an adult, taken at face value by a child)

The problem with something like Lady Chatterley's Lover is that nothing is left to the imagination at all whereas you can read Heyer and enjoy the stories without having to know precisely what it is that makes it so terrible that the runaways aren't caught before nightfall.


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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 16 Mar 2017, 02:01 
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I was actually re-reading Mansfield Park earlier this week, and while to an adult reader it's very obvious what's going on, the language describing it is not particularly explicit by modern standards. "at least very flagrant indiscretion" is not likely to mean "were caught having sex" to a CS reader. Similar with things like "natural child". With Lydia, it's obvious that she's run off with Wickham, but exactly what they were doing with each other, or precisely what it would mean if she were abandoned in London unmarried but experienced, and cut off by her family.

For some of the banned books, I suspect the dividing line was the explicitness of what was discussed, combined with a bias for older, literary works over more modern stuff. There's also the difference between being forced to read something for homework, and reading the naughty bits of books passed around in secret - the latter is much more appealing to most kids, and they'll pay more attention.

I did have a teacher in high school who would explain the stuff in Shakespeare, leading to things like a discussion of the phrase "get the to a nunnery" in Shakespeare.

The book reference that startled me a bit in the CS series was in the CS in the Oberland, when Busman's Honeymoon by Sayers is referenced, and the finishing school girls appear to be familiar with it. That's fairly modern, and does have explicit references to non-married lovers.

When I was in elementary school, the two favourite naughty books to pass around were Flowers in the Attic and Clan of the Cave Bear.

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 16 Mar 2017, 11:46 
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mrs helston wrote:

Also (from the Exploits thread)- what forbidden book do we think Thekla was reading? She doesn't strike me as the trashy novel type of girl....

Mein Kampf perhaps? Given to her by her brother?

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 16 Mar 2017, 14:38 
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:shock:

That would actually fit, wouldn't it...

I love the line in Pride and Prejudice where Lydia says she has done something none of her sisters has done. Good double meaning.

I agree with Victoria, although personally I find DH Lawrence mind-numbingly boring and after struggling through Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow and Women in Love (the second two for uni) I have decided to never read any more of him, and thus will never read Lady Chatterley.


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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 16 Mar 2017, 15:15 
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Everyone in my mum's year at school read Lady Chatterley's Lover when Penguin published the unexpurgated version in 1960 :lol:. They'd have been 15 then. But D H Lawrence's books are hard going, and I don't think most of them would have read it if it hadn't been for the trial, just proving that all publicity is good publicity! Banning books tends to make them far more popular than just ignoring them does.

We did The Go-Between for GCSE, and the plot culminates in an upper-class woman and her working-class lover being caught in flagrante by the woman's mother ... but it doesn't go into any sort of detail, and a CS girl would probably have read as them being caught holding hands or kissing.

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 Post subject: Re: Suitable and unsuitable reading material
PostPosted: 16 Mar 2017, 17:21 
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The book Thekla is reading (in Lintons, when she skips the ragging of Miss Norman) is only described as "a novel the cover of which told Frieda that it must have been smuggled into school." Sounds to me more like a Mills and Boon type book than something like Mein Kampf.

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