Saturday, 22 September 2012

Scandal...What Scandal? What's Scandal and "Scandalous Fiction" to You?

So, as you probably assumed, or maybe just kind of guessed, I'm back at school. The fall semester has just started, and I've finally been to all of my classes. 

One of the classes I'm currently taking is a Comparative Literature class called..."Scandalous Fictions", so before I went to my night class this week, I asked on Twitter: "What comes to your mind when you think of Scandalous Fiction?"

And some of my fellow Edmonton Book Bloggers replied. :) 

Tammy of Mad Musings of a Masters Mind said:

UHHHH 50 Shades?? hahahaha  
how about The Scarlett Letter?

We actually did talk about 50 Shades during our first class, and funnily enough, when I googled "Scandalous fiction" the picture below showed up. ;) And The Scarlett Letter is a book about scandal...which I'm sure has caused plenty of scandal itself. :P


Kristilyn from Reading in Winter said:
Something that steps out of the box -- personally, I think of the Marquis de Sade's works. VERY risky for that time.
 Kristilyn totally zoned in on one of authors we're reading for the class. Justine, one of the Marquis de Sade's books, and also known as the first erotica, is on our class reading list. ;)

Laura from Reading in Bed said:
maybe political stuff? 1984? Sounds like a great class!
While 1984 isn't on our reading list, there are other political books! :D And it definitely is a great, the prof is hilarious and she's totally awesome! :) Laura also suggested that I blog about the class, and show the reading list...and I decided that was a pretty good idea as you can tell from this post! Kudos to Laura for giving me the idea! :D

And Brie from Eat Books said:

Lady Chatterley's Lover? 

Oh boy...this book has definitely caused a TONNE of scandal! It isn't on the reading list for this class, but this book is definitely scandalous! I was supposed to read it for a past class, but we ran out of time and never got to it, but I did start it, and within just the first little bit there was sex right away. I think this one has been critiqued a lot because it has such an upfront view about sex. It doesn't hide it, and it doesn't goes there, and it is not brief.


In the case of the class I'm in, Scandalous Fictions refers to books that have caused the title is pretty straightforward. We're reading books based on a few different types of scandals. Scandals in Politics, Society, Religion, and Sex. All of the books on our reading list have been banned in at least one country. There are 13 books on the list (but I only have to read 2 in their entirety *phew!*), and they are:

(Note: I've linked to each book's Goodreads page in case you want to know more.)

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Paradise of the Blind by Duaong Thu Hong
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rusdie
Shame by Taslima Nasrin
by Marquis de Sade
The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
by Vladimir Nabakov
The Proof of the Honey by Salwa Al Neimi

These were all banned for different reasons, but they all caused their share of scandal. All Quiet on the Western Front was actually banned by the Nazis during World War II! Peyton Place was banned in Canada! We, which is the one that sounds the most interesting to me (it's dystopian!), was banned in Russia because it painted a poor picture on their government, and actually eerily predicted a bit of their future. :P Many of the others were banned for their sexual content, and some for the scandal they caused over religion.

I just find it so interesting how a book can cause so much controversy that countries, or even specific cities/towns/villages/libraries, could ban them! Harry Potter has even been banned in some places! We were talking about scandal in class, and how people can become so scandalized over literature, and it's a really interesting subject!

"This is not a pipe." Source:
In art, things become a representation of what's real. Our prof showed us the above painting from a realist artist in her slides, and it's actually very interesting. Yes, the painting has a picture of a pipe on it...but it isn't a pipe. The pipe in the painting isn't real, it's an image. Thus, a painting of still life becomes completely separate from what was painted. So, if literature, fiction in particular, is just a representation of the real, then why do some people react to it as if it's influencing real life or is already part of life?

Does art, through paintings, songs, movies, or literature, actually influence what we do in our lives?

If a movie comes out with grotesque violence...are we supposed to take it seriously, and worry that people will start to behave like those in the movies? (We're going to be watching A Clockwork Orange in an upcoming class, and imitation was something that came up in interviews that we watched about it.)

Are the artists, directors, writers, and others involved in the creative process, then responsible if someone does claim that they did something because of what they experienced through art?

When you think of scandal that way, going beyond literature and encompassing other mediums, it takes on something completely different. Scandal is personal. People become scandalized, and each person will react to it a different way. If someone moons you, you're probably going to be scandalized...and pretty pissed off. So, if someone reads about someone being mooned, or watches a movie where someone moons the camera, is it justifiable for them to react the same way that they would if it actually happened to them?

Are we supposed to react to art in a different way than we do to real life, or should we treat everything as if it were real?

I have no answers for these questions, but it really is an interesting topic, and it definitely makes you think. It's relatively easy to view either side of the whole scandal subject. I'm not a personal fan of the banning (or burning, either) of books, but I can understand why some people do react so strongly. When something offends you, it's hard to just let it go, and frankly, somethings shouldn't be ignored. If something is against your religion, I could see you not wanting to read about it. I don't think you should try to stop others from reading it, but I can understand not wanting to read it yourself. Also, if you have children who read, I could understand not wanting them to read certain things, or to at least get an idea of what they're reading if you haven't read something yourself. Maybe in the case of books, to avoid upset over subject matter, language, or issue books, we should think about warning labels. If a warning label could stop a book from being banned and inform a reader of what the book contains, while also giving a parent a head's up about the subject matter their child is reading, perhaps we should consider it. I know I've heard of warning labels on books before, but I haven't heard anything recently.

So, what do you think of the idea of putting labels on books? I know they have age recommendations on some, and some do say their genre, but if they had a little box on the back in a corner with rating information, what would you think? Good idea? Bad?

Finally, my last little thought. Is scandal always a bad thing? Fifty Shades was mentioned above, but the scandal surrounding it seems to have only made it more popular. So, do you think scandal can is also beneficial? After all, this isn't the first book to become more popular after everyone starting talking about it. Many books actually end up becoming best-sellers when they get banned (in places other than where they're banned of course)...and as they say, any press is good press. So, what's your take on scandal itself? Do you think society is a little enamoured with scandal? We do find it all over our society, it's in magazines, TV shows, movies themselves, and all over the internet.

I'm going to keep on going on tangents though, so I'm going to stop, and I'll let you think about it yourself. So, think over my questions, and comment if you feel like talking about it to. We can discuss scandal together...and perhaps spread a little bit of scandal through the discussion ourselves.


  1. Interesting question. I don't think anything should be banned. Even controversial subjects can open up a conversation that I think is more valuable than pretending something doesn't exist.

    I don't mind age recommendations - but I prefer a content warning rather than a straight grade. Even that's not perfect though. Some movies that are rated PG because of sexual content seem very violent to me but that isn't held against them.

    Or what is deemed violent or labeled sexual doesn't seem that way to me.

    1. I agree, I don't think banning is the way to go at all. That's very true, and a great point to make. Instead of just trying to hide something away it would be better to use something as a point of discussion.

      A content warning could definitely be useful, and I agree...sometimes just straight rating are rather inconsistent. Especially from country to country. That's true, ratings are very difficult to use in a cut and dry sense. I think you're right that content would be better.

  2. I don't agree with putting labels on books -- and I also don't agree with banning books. For the sake of children, yes, certain books should NOT be in the school libraries, but for the most part I think people are able to make their own decision on what to read. I mean, just because something is released that is dangerous and scandalous, doesn't mean you have to read it.

    I do agree with Karen -- content warnings make sense. Heck, I wish some of the books I'VE read had content warnings.

    Great reading list -- Lolita is definitely one that would have caused a scandal! As well as American Psycho.

    Though, aren't there even TV shows that are borderline scandalous? I mean, look at Dexter. It can basically teach someone how to be a serial killer. Or Prison Break -- I thought I remember people saying how it's a good way to teach people how to get out of prison.

    Great post, Ambur!

    1. I think that's a great point, Kristilyn. And in some cases, I think parents just need to be more aware of what their kids read. If you don't want your children reading something, then you should monitor it yourself. Very true! You can easily choose not to read something.

      Me too! Then you get a warning. :P

      Oh ya! Both of them sure have.

      I think so! Lots of TV shows are pretty scandalous. Dexter definitely is. I think most HBO shows are in one way or another. That's a good point about Prison Break, and I remember hearing that too! I wonder if anyone actually tried it. :P

      Thanks Kristilyn, and thank you for your thoughtful comment. :)

  3. I think banning books is a great way to make sure that more people read them. It's the same with teenagers - tell them they can't do something an they will go out of their way to do it!

    I do think sometimes a movie does influence people - I remember when The Dead Poets Society came out, and they had to remove the one scene where the kids were laying on the center line of traffic, as a dare, because people were actually doing this in real life! And there were deaths...

    I always wanted to read The Satanic Verses.... maybe you've inspired me :)

    1. haha so true, Tammy! They might even like it even more than they would have otherwise, too. :P

      Wow! I never knew that, but that's horrible! I can definitely see it happening though. :S

      Glad to hear it! :D Hopefully you like it. :)

  4. Awesome post, Ambur! Lots to think about that's for sure. Don't they say there's no such thing as bad publicity? And it seems to me anything deemed "scandalous" ensures something becomes super popular (like what Tammy said!). It's actually Banned Book Week from Sept 30 - Oct 6 - check out this list of the most challenged and banned books from 2000-2009! Some of them blow my mind! Bridge to Teribithia?? The Junie B Jones series?? A Prayer for Owen Meany? Etc, etc...

    I just don't understand it - no one is forcing you to read certain books- same goes for movies and TV shows, although it's a lot easier for someone to "accidentally" see a show they shouldn't have (age wise) or wish they hadn't. But how do you "accidentally" read a book? I'm all for warnings if necessary - especially for the sake of schools and teachers though.

    But on the other hand - I think a lot of us ARE impressionable whether it be from films or books. Or maybe people are looking for excuses to blame their certain behaviours on...? But then what about the news?? Should the news be banned?

    Like I said...lots to think about/discuss! Can't wait to read more from you on this :)

    1. Oops! here's the link to the banned/challenged book list:

  5. So true!!! I definitely agree that banning something is the sure way to make it more popular! I knew it was getting close. :D Thanks for bringing it up, and for including the link in your second comment. :D

    I completely agree! I think blaming other people for you reading or watching something you didn't want to read or see is pretty awful. I think warnings would be a great idea, too.

    There are definitely some impressionable people...I always think of Jack@ss, and how they have their warnings not to do it at home. It just makes you wonder about how many people actually try stuff that like! Some people I do think just want someone to blame. Or they use it as an excuse to justify doing something totally disgusting. Exactly! Once you start banning one small thing, it blossoms into something bigger. And that's true, the news is definitely the biggest source we have of violence and other issues from real life! I bet people have tried. :P

    Definitely! It's a huge subject. One that really gets you thinking! Thanks. :) I think I'll definitely have to post on it again. :)


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