Culture Vulture: The Cartoons That Still Shake The World

Can you imagine a scholarly press publishing a book about the Mona Lisa without a reproduction of the painting? Or, perhaps a more pertinent example, a book about anti-Semitic stereotypes without an illustration of them?

Author Jytte Klausen
Brandeis professor and author Jytte Klausen was asked to sign what she called a “gag order” by Yale University Press.

by Helen Epstein
Go here for information about a live-chat, scheduled for August 23rd, with Helen Epstein on “The Art of Narrative Writing.”

The pernicious fear of offending Fundamentalist Muslim sensibilities, now ubiquitous throughout western Europe, hit America this week with the announcement that Yale University Press will not publish images of the Danish cartoons that sparked a cause célèbre in 2005.

In an email to TheArtsFuse, Professor Klausen confirmed that she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement requested by Yale U. Press. Meanwhile, Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, insists that the publisher infringed on academic freedom when it removed previously published images depicting the Prophet Muhammad from “The Cartoons That Shook The World.” He writes that the action has “the potential to encourage broader censorship of speech by faculty members.”

The controversial cartoons are posted here.

cartoonsthatshooktheworldTwo dozen “authorities,” according to the Yale University Press, including “diplomats and experts on Islam and counter terrorism” unanimously recommended that the book “The Cartoons That Shook the World” (to be published in November) appear unaccompanied by the notorious 2005 editorial cartoons themselves. They also recommended that no other illustration of the Muslim prophet be included, pulling a drawing for a children’s book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré.

Isn’t publishing in enough trouble? Is this a portent of what’s to come? Professor Klausen addresses some of these issues here.

Helen Epstein is the author of “Joe Papp: An American Life” and “Tina Packer Builds a Theater.”


  1. Harvey Blume on August 13, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Today’s NY Times piece on this story — — quotes one scholar, Reza Aslan, who declined to blurb the book after the images were dropped, as saying: the book is “a definitive account of the entire controversy but to not include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic.”

    Aslan added: “This is an academic book for an academic audience by an academic press.” Editing the images out, in his view, “is not just academic cowardice, it is just silly and unnecessary.”

  2. Kalman Glantz on August 13, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Political correctness is the vise that makes the West participate in its own demise.

  3. chris on August 14, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Of course, the cartoons should be included. I am a bit worried though that Reza Aslan still counts as an Islamic scholar, given the blatant lies he has delivered. In a discussion with Sam Harris available on YouTube he states “the Koran actually forbids slavery”. This man’s books should stand in the fantasy section.

  4. […] How did this situation […]

  5. […] culture-vulture ist aktuell ein Interview mit Jytte Klausen vom 14. August 2009 sowie ein Hintergrundbericht zu den Zensurvorgängen (The Cartoons that still shake the World) zu lesen. In dem ist der Autor […]

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