Prose and Cons: Essays on Prison Literature in the United States

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As the United States' prison population has exploded over the past 30 years, a rich, provocative and ever-increasing body of literature has emerged, written either by prisoners or by those who have come in close contact with them. Unlike earlier prison writings, contemporary literature moves in directions that are neither uniformly ideological nor uniformly political. It has become increasingly personal, and the obsessive subject is the way identity is shaped, compromised, altered, or obliterated by incarceration.

The 14 essays in this work examine the last 30 years of prison literature from a wide variety of perspectives. The first four essays examine race and ethnicity, the social categories most evident in U.S. prisons. The three essays in the next section explore gender, a prominent subject of prison literature highlighted by the absolute separation of male and female inmates. Section three provides three essays focused on the part ideology plays in prison writings. The four essays in section four consider how aesthetics and language are used, seeking to define the qualities of the literature and to determine some of the reasons it exists.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786421466
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/20/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

D. Quentin Miller, an associate professor of English at Suffolk University in Boston, first became interested in prison literature while teaching writing in Connecticut prisons. He has contributed essays to a number of books including ones about Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and others. His work has been published in several journals including American Literature. He lives in Medford, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

1 "On the outside looking in" : white readers of nonwhite prison narratives 15
2 The value of a Gambler's promise : self-imprisonment and writing survival in Raymond Federman's double or nothing 33
3 Critical witnessing in Latina/o and African American prison narratives 62
4 "A scream that is not female and that is not male" : imprisonment and African-American gender identity in Asha Bandele's The prisoner's wife 81
5 Condemned men : compulsive masculinity and the convict ethic in the writing of Edward Bunker 95
6 Imprisoned mothers and sisters : dealing with loss through writing and solidarity 111
7 "Only man is miserable" : the evolving view of imprisonment in Robert Lowell's poetry 131
8 The prison writer as ideologue : George Jackson and the Attica rebellion 147
9 The space of the prison : the last bastion of morality? 174
10 Writing into the prison-industrial complex 203
11 The ambivalence of the executioner's song : postmodern captivity from death row 217
12 Prison slang and the poetics of imprisonment 233
13 "All I have, a lament and a boast" : why prisoners write 246
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