Prison Narratives

On Campus
Course Number
MLA 5020 641
Course Code
Course Key
Primary Program
Course Description
Prisons, camps, and gulags are total institutions which strip prisoners of basic human rights, choices, services, social contacts and freedom from terror and humiliation. The prisoner is labeled as morally and socially inferior and is removed from society. He/she is then subjected to the prison organization, hierarchy, and the prisoners’ sub-culture. Under such circumstances, prisoners are often driven, either by the conditions, their own beliefs, and talents or with the help of outside mentors to craft writing or other artistic forms about their life in prison. Such writings may lead to changes in the prisoner’s identity and life perspective. In this course we shall examine both narratives of criminal convicts and of political prisoners in America, and other countries.Texts will include the prison letters of Nelson Mandela, resistance narratives by men and women, jail poem by Oscar Wild, a prisoners’ journal, autobiographical novels and memoirs of Jean Genet and Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a selection from a TV series about women prison. Writing assignments will be short responses to the readings and a final paper.