CFP: [American] The Death Penalty in American Literature and Art

full name / name of organization: 
Katy Ryan
contact email: 

Call For Papers and Abstracts
Announcement Date: October 1, 2008

The Death Penalty in US American Literature
Edited Anthology by Katy Ryan, Associate Professor, West Virginia
Tanner Humanities Visiting Research Fellow, University of Utah 2008-2009

I invite essays for an edited collection that explores the death penalty
in US American literature, art, music, and performance. The collection
will feature diverse, committed writing that builds on recent scholarship
in prison studies and helps to comprehend the appeal, administration, and
atrocity of the death penalty. Contributors might be in conversation, for
instance, with studies that examine the impacts of racism and poverty in
the criminal justice system (such as, Angela Davis’s Are Prisons
Obsolete?, Marc Mauer’s Race to Incarcerate, David Oshinksy’s “Worse than
Slavery”); feature the writing of imprisoned men and women (Bruce
Franklin’s Prison Writing in 20th-Century America, Bell Gale Chevigny’s
Doing Time, Joy James’s The New Abolitionists and Imprisoned
Intellectuals); or investigate the literature of incarceration and
execution (Franklin’s The Victim as Criminal and Artist, D. Quentin
Miller’s Prose and Cons, and Kristin Boudreau’s The Spectacle of Death).
The May 2008 issue of PMLA was also devoted to prison scholarship and
activism. Missing from the vibrant interdisciplinary field of prison
studies is a collection of essays focused specifically on the death
penalty and US American literature and art.

Among the questions that might be addressed are the following: What is
the literary history of the death penalty in the United States? In what
contexts and to what purposes have writers and artists approached the
penalty of death (e.g., abolitionist, retentionist, revolutionary,
proletarian, sensationalist, documentary)? What have been the political,
social, and educational impacts of these works? What roles have sentiment
and political advocacy played? How relevant is Michel Foucault’s
Discipline and Punish to understanding the US American capital system,
keeping in mind objections raised by Joy James, C. Fred Alford, and
others? Finally, how might we respond to Dwight Conquergood’s suggestion
that the “death penalty cannot be understood simply as a matter of public
policy debate or an aspect of criminology, apart from what it pre-
eminently is: performance”?

Deadline for papers or detailed abstracts is January 15. Please send
submission, along with a CV, to Katy Ryan (

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Received on Wed Oct 01 2008 - 14:30:57 EDT