"The Prison and the American Imagination" by Caleb Smith

The Prison and the American Imagination Caleb Smith

Format:
Paperback
Publication date:
03 May 2011
ISBN:
9780300171495
Dimensions:
258 pages: 234 x 157 x 19mm

How did a nation so famously associated with freedom become internationally identified with imprisonment? After the scandals of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and in the midst of a dramatically escalating prison population, the question is particularly urgent. In this timely, provocative study, Caleb Smith argues that the dehumanization inherent in captivity has always been at the heart of American civil society. Exploring legal, political, and literary texts - including the works of Dickinson, Melville, and Emerson - Smith shows how alienation and self-reliance, social death and spiritual rebirth, torture and penitence came together in the prison, a scene for the portrayal of both gothic nightmares and romantic dreams. Demonstrating how the 'cellular soul' has endured since the antebellum age, "The Prison and the American Imagination" offers a passionate and haunting critique of the very idea of solitude in American life.

Caleb Smith is Assistant Professor of English at Yale University.

"'Smith's book is remarkably inventive and wide-ranging with its close interweaving of literature and history, its refusal to rely slavishly on Foucault, its close reading, and its refreshingly lucid style.' (Terry Eagleton)"