Incarcerated Life

Spring 2018-2019

29705

Chris Taylor

The United States today is in the midst of an incarceration crisis, one in which millions of Americans are currently warehoused within, or have passed through, carceral institutions. Many scholars locate the emergence of this punitive turn in the 1970s, and with good reason: the landscape of penality and confinement looks much different in earlier historical periods. Turning to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this course will explore literary, philosophical, and pragmatic engagements with the prison across the British Empire and in the postcolonial United States. By tracing the particular fears and fantasies that grouped around institutions of confinement, we will explore the logic by which an institution once marginal to social life has become so central to society that incarceration is now a conventional form of life. This course will involve a robust research component, culminating in a final paper; while this course is rooted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, students will be welcome to pursue research on contemporary regimes of incarceration. Our theoretical readings will include Michel Foucault, Angela Davis, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Our archive of literary, philosophical, and practical texts will include the Newgate Calendar, Cesare Beccaria, Oliver Goldsmith, John Gay, Jeremy Bentham, James Williams, Harriet Jacobs, and Austin Reed. (1830-1940) This is Seminar in Research and Criticism intended for English majors.