HL90CF: The American Prison & the Literature of Punishment





Instructor: Thomas Dichter
Meeting time: Wednesday, 1-3

The United States currently keeps more people behind bars than any other country. While the US’s emergence as the leader in incarceration rates is relatively recent, the prison has loomed large in American public life for 200 years. In this class, we will approach the prison not as a marginal phenomenon, but as an institution central to American culture. Readings include works of literature by and about prisoners as well as reformers’ pamphlets, sociological studies, government reports, and inmate manifestos. We will trace debates about freedom and captivity from the birth of the penitentiary through the era of mass incarceration.