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María José Vega

The court of consciences. Literary censorship in modern Europe URL: http://www.march.es/conferencias/anteriores/voz.aspx?p1=21928&l=2

By the end of the 15th century, the ecclesiastical bodies granted the printing press an enthusiastic and warm embrace. They greeted it as divine art capable of giving to the entire world treasures of wisdom and teaching, of extending devotion, of fostering spiritual reading and historical and science knowledge. In the words of the Franciscan Bernardino da Feltre, in these new times, with such light and abundance of books, there would be no excuses left for men to remain in ignorance. Nevertheless, soon this fascination for mechanical writing became awareness not only of its benefits, but also its dangers. In the bull of 1487 Inter multiplices, the Pope Innocent VIII praised the utility of the printing presses because it was possible to multiply the good books, but also warned about its risks, because with the same efficiency it could disseminate perverse doctrines and false knowledge. This way, he established the imprimatur institution, and assumed that the pastoral office's role of caring for the souls needed to be extended to the press work and the content of the books. Thus, the intimate relationship in modern Europe between the printing press and the institutions of censorship can be traced to the origins and spans for several centuries. The most visible expression of this is without doubt the vast List of Prohibited Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum) compiled by Roman, Tridentine, and national authorities; but also adopts other less conspicuous, or more capillary, forms but equally effective. This conference aims at highlighting the main milestones of the increasing intervention process over what was read, describing the theoretical justification of censorship over fiction and entertainment books, and proposing a general review of the great relevance that the institutions of censorship had over the cultural and textual exchanges in the great golden literature. The title of the conference holds a homage to the great Italian historian Adriano Prosperi, whom through the expression court of conscience referred to the sum of censorship and confession, understanding that each of them have the power to search the intimacy of the soul, its convictions and desires, and in the silent and private acts of reading and imagining.

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