While the United States makes up 4% of the world’s population, it imprisons 22% of the world’s prisoners. This course takes the prison system as a starting point for investigating literary imagination. Many celebrated writers (Margery Kempe; Queen Elizabeth I; Ezra Pound; Martin Luther King, Jr.) were both prisoners and visionaries. Others (Shakespeare, Octavia Butler) envision the world differently through visions of imprisonment. We will be guided by Michel Foucault’s foundational analysis of the modern prison in Discipline and Punish.


Why the prison?
Before the prison
The body in question
Prisons of the mind
Envisioning culture
The carceral imagination

  1. Mumia Abu-Jamal and Marc Lamont Hill, The Classroom and the Cell
  2. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
  3. William Shakespeare, The Tempest
  4. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

course website

[pictured: Angela Davis]