[Update] Death Penalty in US American Literature and Culture

full name / name of organization: 
Katy Ryan, Associate Professor, West Virginia University
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May 2009--Second Call
Missing from the vibrant interdisciplinary field of prison studies is a collection of essays focused on the death penalty in US American literature and art. I invite scholarly and creative essays for an edited book collection, which will explore the death penalty in American literature, art, music, and performance. The collection will feature writing that builds on recent scholarship in prison studies in order to comprehend the appeal, administration, and atrocity of the death penalty. Contributors might be in conversation 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, Quentin Miller's Prose and Cons, and Kristin Boudreau's The Spectacle of Death).

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"?

Please send submissions along with a CV to Katy Ryan ASAP (kohearnr@mail.wvu.edu).