The Robert Cormier: Censorship and Intolerance exhibit is the first in a series of three themed digital exhibits showcasing artifacts from the Robert Cormier Collection at Fitchburg State University's Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library. While this first exhibit addresses the topic of censorship, our 2016 exhibit will focus on bullying and terrorism while our 2017 exhibit will center on the sexualization of children

Our overarching goal in all three exhibits is to highlight portions of the collection related to a core set of Cormier’s work with three novels for each digital exhibit. For example, the current exhibit includes artifacts related to Cormier's more frequently censored novels: The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and Fade. Our aim with these three exhibits is not to digitize the entire collection, but rather, to feature and promote further research in this rich archive.

Robert Cormier’s work and influence in young adult literature is without question. To house his collection at Fitchburg State University is a privilege, and we would like to encourage more due attention to the collection by bringing a small portion of its treasures to the digital world and encourage further scholarly work.

Cormier was staunchly opposed to censorship and maintained that people will not read what does not move them. Responding to an interviewer’s query about the effect of censorship on his writing he responded that, in the main, “I’m worrying about writing realistically and truthfully to affect the reader” (Robert Cormier in Silvey, 1985/2013). More recently, Denzin (2013) surveyed her own secondary students about whether and how sexual themes, in particular titles were disturbing to them. Her students answered honestly and thoughtfully. A representative response follows: “A third student claimed that the 'inappropriate' content simply solidifie[d] the image of an intense lack of morality in a postapocalyptic world” (p. 8). Repeatedly, her students argued for choice-based reading that would lead to their own interest-based reading. Ivey and Broaddus’s (2001) study of middle school student’s reading motivation supports Denzin’s findings: that choice and motivation to read are intimately connected.

Beyond the content of Cormier’s work, the movement toward digitization and of open access research tools equally contributes to the idea that centralized control endangers humanity. In discussing the burgeoning field of digital humanities, a field expressly interested in examining and incorporating computing as a part of understanding human culture, Gary Hall (2011) argues that one core problem that the humanities must face is its roots in the “individualized, proprietorial, liberal humanist author” (p. 4). By his account, the functioning of knowledge development in the humanities has not evolved despite drastic changes in authoring and dissemination practices made available by digital technologies.

The pressure and demands our technologies place on us are still latent and often cited in the digital humanities and in media studies. Fitzpatrick (2011), while charting changes in the field of publication and scholarship (e.g. post-digital technologies, “copyleft,” and Creative Commons) places the central problem not on the tool but on the very real effect the tool lays on the “shifts and reinventions in our intellectual lives” (p. 7). Fitzpatrick astutely recognizes that what we fear is this sense of the loss of individuality, of control, and of authority as though we had not recognized our continual dependence on others and our environments.

We hope that users of the exhibit will not only benefit from the its contents academically or even personally, but that they will share and comment on the work here. We imagine this exhibit as a base for developing conversations about Cormier, YA literature, and censorship more broadly.

As you move through the exhibit, note that we have arranged materials into five collections visible from the "Browse Archive Collections" on our top menu. As you open individual documents, keep in mind that clicking on a hyperlinked "tag" will bring you to a list of other documents in the exhibit with that same tag.

Works Cited