Banned Books Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Book banning — the practice of removing certain titles from library shelves, reading lists and K–12 curricula — is one of the most pressing issues in U.S. education news today. Florida, Texas and Missouri far outpace other states in legislation and organizing around banning particular titles deemed inappropriate for various reading audiences, and according to Pen America, book banning is on the rise, nationwide. The question of what to ban, and why, is part of a larger conversation about the role of various writing in public life across temporalities, languages and national borders. That conversation speaks to both the power of books to inspire and enact change, as well as to the vulnerability of their authors and readers to various censoring and repressive powers. 

The Center for the Humanities’ Banned Books Undergraduate Research Fellowship invites interested undergraduate students into this conversation. The first cohort was selected in January 2024.

Students engage in a research project on a topic of their choosing, one that might trace the history of a single particular banned book, or embark on a project at wider scale about the historical and cultural contexts of book banning. We are also interested in projects that look carefully into current book bans (particularly in our surrounding community), as well as book banning in international and historical contexts. While students produce writing around their research topic, the final product of their work is the presentation of their research, rather than a paper. 

In exchange for their research and collaborative efforts in planning an on-campus, end-of-year event on the topic, each student in the Banned Book research cohort receives a $500 stipend. Students are expected to attend a series of monthly meetings and confer with humanities center staff on their project work throughout the semester. 

Questions may be directed to Meredith Kelling, assistant director of student research and engagement, Center for the Humanities.

Banned comic book covers

Banned Comic Books

A September 2022 panel discussion considered banned comic books from the perspectives of the artists who create them and the advocates who defend them. Co-organized by WashU Center for the Humanities, St. Louis Public Library and Left Bank Books.