Special issue on Reading and Writing in Prison (proposal deadline 01/01/11)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr Anne Schwan, Edinburgh Napier University
contact email: 

As prison populations in the West are reaching new record levels, the genre of prison (auto)biography and the practice of reading and writing in prison are burgeoning areas of research that lend themselves to fruitful conversations across disciplinary boundaries. Researchers and practitioners alike have long been arguing that opportunities for reading and writing in prisons can become a dignifying tool for prisoners to re-evaluate and reconstruct their lives, with positive impact on recidivism rates and thus society as a whole. Others insist on the practice of reading and writing as a fundamental human right, regardless of its potential effects on recidivism. Historical research on reading and writing in prisons can also provide valuable insights for today's theory and practice, especially as it tackles issues that go beyond an immediate concern with incarceration and its institutions, involving notions of subjectivity, citizenship and nationhood.

This special issue, to be published in the journal Critical Survey (Berghahn, Oxford) in autumn 2011, seeks to address the aesthetics and politics of reading and writing in prison, in any geographical location, in both historical and contemporary contexts. Some of the questions this special issue wishes to deal with are: what defines the genre of prison literature or prison autobiography and how has it changed historically? How do institutional contexts and penal policies impact on reading and writing in prison? What effect do creative reading and writing practice, prison education and reading groups have on groups of offenders and, conversely, society at large? What is the role of researchers and universities in contributing to debates around narratives of imprisonment, reading and writing in prison?

The editor particularly welcomes contributions that are inter-disciplinary in approach, that reflect on the relationship between theory and practice and/or topical debates on the relevance of reading and writing in prisons. Articles should have an argument and be contextualized within recent scholarship.

Possible topics for articles include:
• Prison literature and prison (auto)biography as a genre
• The history and publishing context of prison writing
• Representations of prison reading and writing experiences in selected texts
• Gender, class, ethnicity/race and age and their impact on reading and writing
• Writing and political imprisonment
• Prison libraries and reading groups
• Creative writing in prisons: practice and problems

Proposals of 600-800 words outlining the article's topic and argument, including a select bibliography, should be sent via email to the special issue's guest editor, together with a short biographical statement, at the following address:

Dr Anne Schwan: a.schwan@napier.ac.uk

Deadline for proposals: 1 January 2011.
If accepted, complete articles (c. 5000 words in length) will be due in mid-April 2011.