Institutions of Authorship: Publishing, Gatekeeping, and Patronage in the Modern Literary Field

The Literary Prestige of Censorship: The Case of Naked Lunch



By tracing the publication history of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, this article shows how the gate-keeping mechanism of censorship can facilitate literary prestige. The release of the Grove Press edition of Naked Lunch in 1966 after two obscenity trials marked the end of complete literary censorship in the US and was a crucial step towards the canonization of underground authors. By making it necessary to argue on behalf of the text’s form, the obscenity trials helped in framing Burroughs’s arguably “formless” text as both a coherent work and a work of high literary merit. The article offers a detailed account of the enabling role of censorship in the case of Naked Lunch, which consisted not only in generating the interest of underground publishers (Olympia Press in Paris and Grove Press in the US) but also in helping Burroughs’s formless, fragmented text take shape and as a novel.


How to Cite: Majewska, M. (2023) “The Literary Prestige of Censorship: The Case of Naked Lunch”, Authorship. 11(1). doi: