The Big House Image and Reality of the American Prison Stephen Cox

Icons of America
Publication date:
16 Oct 2009
256 pages: 229 x 152 x 24mm
25 black-&-white illustrations

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"The Big House" is America's idea of the prison - a huge, tough, ostentatiously oppressive pile of rock, bristling with rules and punishments, overwhelming in size and intending to intimidate. Stephen Cox tells the story of the American prison - its politics, its sex, its violence, its inability to control itself - and its idealization in American popular culture. The book investigates both the popular images of prison and the realities that lay behind them - problems of control and discipline, maintenance and reform, power and sexuality. It conveys an awareness of the limits of human and institutional power, and of the symbolic and iconic qualities these 'Big Houses' have attained in America's understanding of itself.

Stephen Cox is Professor of Literature and Director of the Humanities Programme at the University of California San Diego. He is the editor of Liberty magazine.

"Professor Cox has brought prison studies into mainstream intellectual discourse, something Foucault tried to do but failed."-Nathan Kantrowitz, author of "Close Control: Managing a Maximum Security Prison"--Nathan Kantrowitz