Captivating Subjects

Captivating Subjects: Writing Confinement, Citizenship, and Nationhood in the Nineteenth Century

Jason Haslam
Julia M. Wright
Copyright Date: July 2005
Pages: 290
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442672734
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  • Book Info
    Captivating Subjects
    Book Description:

    Ever since Michel Foucault's highly regarded work on prisons and confinement in the 1970s, critical examination of the forerunners to the prison - slavery, serfdom, and colonial confinements - has been rare. However, these institutions inform and participate in many of the same ideologies that the prison enforces.

    Captivating Subjects is a collection of essays that fills several crucial gaps in the critical examination of the relations between Western state-sanctioned confinement, identity, nation, and literature. Editors Jason Haslam and Julia M. Wright have brought together an esteemed group of international scholars to examine nineteenth-century writings by prisoners, slaves, and other captives, tracing some of the continuities among the varieties of captivity and their crucial relationship to post-Enlightenment subjectivities.

    This volume is the first sustained examination of the ways in which the diverse kinds of confinement intersect with Western ideologies of subjectivity, investigating the modern nation-state's reliance on captivity as a means of consolidating notions of individual and national sovereignty. It details the specific historical and cultural practices of confinement and their relations to each other and to punishment through a range of national contexts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7273-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)
    Jason Haslam and Julia M.Wright

    Over the past decade, there has been a surge in critical examinations of the relations between identity, nation, literature, and Western state-sanctioned confinement. Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison has, of course, contributed to this surge in examinations of confinement in Western culture, but its influence has tended to limit such studies to the specific practices of institutionalized imprisonment as it has developed from the eighteenth century through to the present day. Discussions of the ways in which the methods employed by the nascent prison were influenced by and congruent with its precursors, especially as seen...

  5. The Subject of Captivity

    • CHAPTER 1 Being Jane Warton: Lady Constance Lytton and the Disruption of Privilege
      (pp. 25-56)
      Jason Haslam

      While the origins of the modern prison are generally posited in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the exact workings of the prison went through a distinct change as the nineteenth century came to an end. From the late eighteenth century through to the Victorian period, prisons were constructed as institutions which could help to bring about the moral rehabilitation of the criminal. This rehabilitation was to take place through isolation and silence, which, according to the humanist philosophy undergirding the practice, would allow the prisoners to reconnect with their innate ethical characters.¹ This reformative process has been construed...

    • CHAPTER 2 Form and Authority in Russian Serf Narratives
      (pp. 57-85)
      John Mackay

      It has been argued that autobiography cannot be regarded as a ‘literary genre,’ inasmuch as the term ‘genre’ refers to distinct, consistent, and recognizable formal properties allowing for discriminations between ‘kinds’ of imaginative writing.¹ And apart from assuming the presence of narrative chronology itself – and certainly keeping in mind chronology’s signal malleability, how often it’s subjected to condensation and projection into flashes forward and back – it’s true that we don’t find it easy to map autobiography onto any of the standard narrative genres. Of course, even narrative temporality can be abandoned for long stretches within autobiographies. Augustine provides perhaps the...

    • CHAPTER 3 I, Hereby, Vow to Read The Intersting Narrative
      (pp. 86-110)
      Tess Chakkalakal

      When Olaudah Equiano first published the story of his life in 1789 under the title The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African Written by Himself, it received considerable attention from English reading audiences.¹ Read as ‘spiritual autobiography, captivity narrative, travel book, adventure tale, narrative of slavery, economic treatise and apologia,’² the Narrative appealed to various tastes and consequently, like a number of other captivity narratives of the period, was a bestseller in its day.³ A key difference, however, between Equiano’s Narrative and its contemporaries is that the former continues to appeal to readers...

  6. Captivating Discourses:: Class and Nation

    • CHAPTER 4 ‘From the Slums to the Slums’: The Delimitation of Social Identity in Late Victorian Prison Narratives
      (pp. 113-143)
      Frank Lauterbach

      Contemplating his experience of no less than seventeen Victorian prisons within twenty-five years, the anonymous ex-convict ‘No. 7’ concludes that the portal of every English jail should display the words ‘From the slums to the slums.’¹ And jabez Spencer Balfour, a former MP sentenced to penal servitude in 1895 on charges of fraud, observes on the occasion of his detention in the Black Maria that ‘to a man of refinement the sudden association, on terms of equality,... with the noisy and ribald dregs of criminal and outcast London is an experience calculated to beget despair in the most sanguine mind.²...

    • CHAPTER 5 ‘Stone Walls Do (Not) a Prison Make’: Rhetorical Strategies and Sentimentalism in the Representation of the Victorian Prison Experience
      (pp. 144-174)
      Monika Fludernik

      Best known in the line from Richard Lovelace’s poem ‘To Althea, from Prison,’ the topos of mental freedom in prison is one that has a long history reaching back to the Greek Stoics and featuring as some of its most famous examples Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae, Sir Thomas More’s A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, and the poetry of Charles d’Orleans in the fifteenth century.¹ This literary topos also emerges in the central argument of Victor Brombert’s study The Romantic Prison, in which he discusses several literary prisoners who use the time of their confinement to meditate or to engage...

    • CHAPTER 6 ‘National Feeling’ and the Colonial Prison: Teeling’s Personal Narrative
      (pp. 175-198)
      Julia M. Wright

      The storming of the notorious Bastille prison in July 1789 inaugurated the French Revolution and revitalized the use of the prison as a central metaphor in critiques of the oppressive state.¹ Because of escalating prosecutions against political radicals in the British Isles – members of the London Corresponding Society, the Society of United Irishmen, publishers and purveyors of literature deemed seditious - the prison of the 1790s was both the actual site of what Iain McCalman has termed a ‘counterculture’ and the discursive site through which radical authors could articulate the varied impact of an oppressive state on its citizens.² In...

  7. Captivating Otherness

    • CHAPTER 7 A Nation in Chains: Barbary Captives and American Identity
      (pp. 201-219)
      Jennifer Costello Brezina

      In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, there were many American texts that were produced out of what Mary Louise Pratt would term ‘contact zones, social spaces where disparate cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other.’¹ Most frequently, when scholars refer to these ‘contact zones’ of the early literature of the United States, they are referring to North American contacts and conflicts, not those with Africa and Asia. Even in his highly influential work Orientalism, which details the ways in which the West has described and dominated what it termed the ‘Orient,’ Edward Said focuses his attention primarily...

    • CHAPTER 8 A Prison Officer and a Gentleman: The Prison Inspector as Imperialist Hero the Writings of Major Arthur Griffiths (1838–1908)
      (pp. 220-240)
      Christine Marlin

      Prisons do not generally receive a favourable treatment in the Victorian novel. Of course, prisons were never meant to be pleasant places; but the British novel of the nineteenth century presents the British prison as harsher than it has to be, and rife with abuses. A host of examples of Victorian novels advocating prison reform readily spring to mind. Charles Reade’s It Is Never Too Late to Mend (1856) castigates the brutality of the system of solitary confinement. In Little Dorrit (1855–7), Charles Dickens satirizes a system of prison administration in which ‘somebody came from some Office, to go...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-262)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 263-264)
  10. Index
    (pp. 265-270)