Banned in Plano

The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture is one of those interesting bits of the city that might pass unnoticed by those for whom downtown is synonymous with Deep Ellum. For almost 20 years, the institute has dedicated itself to encouraging discussion about "the cultural issues that are vital for the city, and which a big city like Dallas never stops to think about," says Larry Allums, director of the institute.

The institute's talks and classes, often accompanied by coffee or wine--your choice--touch on a range of topics, the latest of which is "Contemporary Censorship in Literature." Offered by Jocelyn Chadwick-Joshua, head of the institute's American literature group and author of The Jim Dilemma: Reading Race in Huckleberry Finn, this six-part series comes at a particularly opportune moment.

On October 21, the Plano Star-Courier announced that of three books challenged by parents in Plano Independent School District, one--Effie's House, by Morris Hamilton--was banned from school library shelves. Effie's House joins well-known works such as Maya Angelou's autobiographical I Know why the Caged Bird Sings (banned in Garland Independent School District) on the list of more than 50 books removed from Texas schools.

Enter the Dallas Institute. As their brochure states, "With so many books now being challenged in classrooms around the country, it is time to examine which ones have been censored within the last year, where they are being taught, and who is challenging these books." Among the authors to be discussed in the lectures are Maya Angelou, Amy Tan, Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, and James Joyce. The discussion is structured much like college classes, with approximately 18 "students" and a lecturer leading the debate.

Other talks led by the institute's faculty include "Contemporary Lyric Poetry," starting on November 4, and "Dante's Divine Comedy: Inferno," beginning on November 10.

On Wednesday evenings, the Institute hosts a free lecture series on "Work and Play in the City." On Saturday, November 7, they will offer a day-long free seminar titled "Dallas Back From the Edge," in which the renewal of downtown Dallas will be discussed after a keynote talk by Brandes Gratz, author of "Cities Back From the Edge."

--Juliana Barbassa

Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture's "Contemporary Censorship in Literature" lectures take place Tuesdays, November 3 through December 8, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The talks will take place at 2719 Routh St., and the cost of attending is $70 for members, $80 for non-members.

 
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