Christopher Hilliard

Censorship is to culture what war is to demography: it creates absence where presence should be. Christopher Hilliard’s fascinating and deeply informed monograph on the politics of censorship in Britain (and by extension its colonies) from the 1850s to the 1980s is concerned with the many books, magazines, and films that fell afoul of the authorities, from translations of Zola in the wake of the Obscene Publications Act 1857 to the skin mags of the 1970s.

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Christopher Hilliard’s meticulously researched and richly detailed English as a Vocation: The Scrutiny Movement opens with a historical anecdote regarding an after-hours, postwar negotiation ‘between literary analysis and popular culture’ undertaken in that most evocative of English holiday destinations: Scarborough. In these opening lines, Hilliard describes how the founder and director of Birmingham University’s renowned Centre of Cultural Studies, Richard Hoggart, working in an earlier capacity as an adult education tutor in North Yorkshire, spent his evenings in the late 1940s combining classes on Shakespeare with sessions scrutinising advertising rhetoric and the language of newspaper articles.

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