Twentieth-Century American Literature

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2022) | Viewed by 9493

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ 08028, USA
Interests: American literature; native american literature; gender and sexuality in literature; prison studies; critical methods
Department of English, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506-6296, USA
Interests: American studies; public humanities; prison studies; twentieth-century American literature

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Guest Editor
Department of English, University of North Georgia, Gainesville, GA 30566, USA
Interests: twentieth- and twenty-first-century-American literature; prison literature and film; critical dystopian literature

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It’s a statistic we hear often: the United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation. Yet, many U.S. Americans can go about their daily lives without thinking about their physical proximity to prisons or the people locked within. Prisons have become increasingly removed to rural, remote areas, set back from main highways, not visible from shopping centers, restaurants, and housing developments. Likewise, the U.S. political landscape works hard to obfuscate the realities of life locked up, reducing mass incarceration to shocking statistics. However, prisons remain hidden in plain sight, coming to life in American literature and film.

While geography and political discourse can work to obscure the realities of who is locked up, where, why, and for how long, art about prison reveals cultural anxieties about America’s penal practices. This special issue on twentieth-century US American literature invites submissions investigating Americans’ longstanding cultural impulses to write, read, and watch stories about prison. We are especially interested in contributions that explore abolitionist histories and activist practices as well as intersectional analyses.

Completed articles of 5000–7000 words should be submitted by 15 Sep 2022 to the email address of Special Issue editors <>. Inquiries welcome and should be directed to the Special Issue Editors.

Dr. Yvonne Hammond
Dr. Katy Ryan
Dr. Valerie Surrett
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • prison

  • abolition
  • race/racism
  • incarceration
  • trauma/generational trauma
  • literature

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

14 pages, 272 KiB  
Article
“What to Do with the Dangerous Few?”: Abolition-Feminism, Monstrosity and the Reimagination of Sexual Harm in Miguel Piñero’s “Short Eyes”
by Laura E. Ciolkowski
Humanities 2023, 12(2), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12020025 - 9 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1818
Abstract
The problem of child sexual abuse (CSA) is a crucial point of entry into abolition-feminist conversations about justice and punishment, healing and repair. The popular belief that the “child sex offender” is uniquely irredeemable, eternally depraved and dangerous can trouble abolition-feminist efforts to [...] Read more.
The problem of child sexual abuse (CSA) is a crucial point of entry into abolition-feminist conversations about justice and punishment, healing and repair. The popular belief that the “child sex offender” is uniquely irredeemable, eternally depraved and dangerous can trouble abolition-feminist efforts to address the devastating harm of CSA without reproducing the violence of prison and punishment. It also forces us to return to the question of “what to do with the dangerous few?” A familiar “tough on crime” refrain, this question mystifies the social, economic, and political conditions that nurture interpersonal violence. It also illustrates how centering our attention on “the monster in our midst” feeds an attachment to the mistaken belief that sexual harm is locatable in individual, bad people; that it is fixable by criminal law, and, in short, that justice and repair can be measured by the number of years one is sentenced to live behind bars. Miguel Piñero’s 1972 play “Short Eyes” exposes the failure of our attempts to incarcerate our way out of child sexual abuse and opens a literary-artistic space in which to explore the roots of violence and the abuse of power. The play dramatizes the particular ways in which the incarceration of those deemed the worst of the worst does not alleviate suffering or promote safety; rather, it prevents us from getting to the root of even the most horrific forms of abuse and from fully engaging, confronting and, finally, interrupting the daily, quotidian acts of sexual violence that are hiding in plain sight. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Twentieth-Century American Literature)
9 pages, 220 KiB  
Article
‘A Whole Other World than What I Live in’: Reading Chester Himes, on Campus and at the County Jail
by Ed Wiltse
Humanities 2023, 12(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12010011 - 16 Jan 2023
Viewed by 1414
Abstract
This essay first briefly examines African American novelist Chester Himes’ genre-defying position as prison writer turned detective writer, whose influence is clear not only in the usual suspects such as Walter Mosley but also in the Blaxploitation films of the early 1970s, and [...] Read more.
This essay first briefly examines African American novelist Chester Himes’ genre-defying position as prison writer turned detective writer, whose influence is clear not only in the usual suspects such as Walter Mosley but also in the Blaxploitation films of the early 1970s, and in the urban fiction tradition from Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim on down through today’s Triple Crown books and others. I then look at how Himes’ work has been received by the college students and incarcerated people who each spring for the past 20 years have worked together in reading groups set at the local county jail in a project linked to a class I teach, in order to raise questions about genre, audience and pedagogy. The two groups of readers, who may come to see each other as one group over the series of meetings, often develop readings of Himes’ novel that push back against the analysis I present in the classroom. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Twentieth-Century American Literature)
15 pages, 295 KiB  
Article
Lessons from Shawshank: Outlaws, Lawmen and the Spectacle of Punishment
by Benjamin Boyce
Humanities 2023, 12(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12010010 - 12 Jan 2023
Viewed by 2464
Abstract
For more than a century, cinema has offered a rich source of images and narratives about crime and punishment. Unfortunately, the restricted nature of correctional environments and the social stigma surrounding incarceration leave most viewers reliant on media representations for the majority of [...] Read more.
For more than a century, cinema has offered a rich source of images and narratives about crime and punishment. Unfortunately, the restricted nature of correctional environments and the social stigma surrounding incarceration leave most viewers reliant on media representations for the majority of their knowledge about correctional spaces. In most media representations of crime and punishment, outlaws and lawmen are reduced to stereotypical archetypes, and incarcerated characters are some of the evilest villains one will ever encounter. Moreover, the prison environment is painted as a playground for bad behavior, as penance for redeemable outlaws, or as an outright paradox that claims to reduce criminality despite appearing to increase it. Our uncritical acceptance of such characterizations goes hand in hand with our cultural addiction to mass incarceration. Limitless stories about uncontainable monsters perpetrating awful crimes inside cushy taxpayer funded facilities endorse a worldview where a permanently expanding and harshening prison system is vital to the safety of a functioning society. In short, our reliance on the spectacle of punishment has left us woefully and willfully misinformed about prison and those who wind up there. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Twentieth-Century American Literature)
15 pages, 293 KiB  
Article
Reading Behind Bars: Literacy and Survival in U.S. Prison Literature
by Katie Owens-Murphy
Humanities 2023, 12(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12010002 - 20 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1896
Abstract
This paper unpacks the contradiction between the benefits of literacy and the punitive prison policies that seek to curb or regulate reading by beginning with the complicated historical relationship between incarceration and literacy. I then turn to the testimonies of two prominent incarcerated [...] Read more.
This paper unpacks the contradiction between the benefits of literacy and the punitive prison policies that seek to curb or regulate reading by beginning with the complicated historical relationship between incarceration and literacy. I then turn to the testimonies of two prominent incarcerated autodidacts who I now regularly teach within my prison literature classes both on my university campus and at a men’s prison. The writings of Malcolm X and Etheridge Knight model the difficulties of negotiating the institutional risks and personal and political rewards of learning to read and write behind bars—particularly while Black. What is more, while literacy may provide an “on-ramp” toward higher education, barriers for incarcerated people continue to proliferate in our current era in the form of book bans, paywalls, and the material conditions of prisons themselves. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Twentieth-Century American Literature)
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