This week’s blog post sees the latest instalment of my popular Controversial Authors series. It will likely be the last. However, as you may be aware from my never-ending Bizarre Author Death series, I am partial to changing my mind, and there may be a further instalment, or possibly two at some point.
Circa 446 BC – 386 BC
Notable works: The Clouds, The Birds, The Frogs, Lysistrata
Often referred to as ‘the father of comedy’, Aristophanes was an ancient Athenian comic playwright, whose plays are still performed to this day. Though regarded as being old fashioned and conservative, Aristophanes was also extremely controversial. Respected and feared for his comic wit, the playwright was merciless in his scathing satire of religion, politicians and poets. His victims included such influential figures as Euripides, Cleon and Socrates.
Plato, outraged by Aristophanes’ play, The Clouds, labelled it slanderous. The populist Cleon denounced his second play, The Babylonians, as being misrepresentative of the Athenian state. We can only assume any legal action Cleon may have taken was unsuccessful, as Aristophanes caricatured him relentlessly in his subsequent plays, most notably in The Knights.
Arguably Aristophanes’ most controversial work, the play Lysistrata, was written during the Peloponnesian War, a conflict the playwright was bitterly opposed to. The story is about one woman’s efforts to end the war. Having a female lead would have been considered highly controversial in male dominated Athenian society.
Over two thousand years later in 1873 Lysistrata was banned in America, due to its perceived obscene and immoral content.
January 1st 1919 – January 27th 2010
Notable works: The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey
The reclusive J.D. Salinger was an American author, whose seminal work The Catcher in the Rye spent thirty weeks on the New York Bestseller List, and went on to sell over ten million copies worldwide. To this day the book continues to sell around a quarter of a million copies a year.
At the time of its publication in 1951 many were concerned by what they regarded as the immorality and perversion of the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield. The text is replete with religious slurs, casual sex and prostitution; subject matters that were highly controversial in the conservative nineteen-fifties. One concerned parent counted two hundred and thirty-seven occurrences of the word ‘goddamn’, fifty-eight ‘bastard’s’, thirty-one ‘Chrissake’s’ and six ‘fuck’s’.
The book was later banned in some countries and in many U.S. schools. In the nineteen-seventies several high school teachers who had assigned The Catcher in the Rye were forced to resign from their posts. A 1979 study of censorship noted that The Catcher in the Rye was the most frequently censored book in America, in addition to being the second most taught (after Of Mice and Men).
Click here to read Part 6.