The Prison in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism: Physical Prisons And Prison Authors - Essay

Elissa Deborah Gelfand (essay date 1980-81)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gelfand, Elissa Deborah. “Women Prison Authors in France: Twice Criminal.” Modern Language Studies 11, no. 1 (1980-81): 57-63.

[In the following essay, Gelfand compares the writings of women prisoners to the work of canonized male writers such as Villon, Sade, and Wilde, suggesting that the themes and tone of their texts counter the “power-centered” male texts that generally constitute the genre of prison literature.]

The following quotes by some well-known students of prison literature will give an idea of the qualities long expected of and thought inherent to important prison texts:

(Albert Camus): Si l'âme est...

(The entire section is 3067 words.)

Jeremy Tambling (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tambling, Jeremy. “Prison-Bound: Dickens and Foucault.” In Great Expectations, edited by Roger D. Sell, pp. 123-42. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, republished several times after its first appearance in 1986, Tambling applies French philosopher Michel Foucault's analysis of the Panopticon to Dickens's Great Expectations.]

Great Expectations has been called an analysis of ‘Newgate London’,1 suggesting that the prison is everywhere implicitly dominant in the book, and it has been a commonplace of Dickens criticism, since Edmund Wilson's essay in The Wound and the Bow and Lionel Trilling's introduction...

(The entire section is 8143 words.)

Daniel Barrett (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Barrett, Daniel. “It Is Never Too Late to Mend (1865) and Prison Conditions in Nineteenth-Century England.” Theatre Research International 18, no. 1 (1993): 4-15.

[In the following essay, Barrett describes the historical sources for Charles Reade's graphic theatricalization of corporal punishments used on British prisoners. Barrett recounts the audience reaction to the first onstage depiction of the grisly conditions of prisoners, noting that the play (an adaptation of Reade's novel) helped pave the way for the presentation of serious social issues in Victorian drama.]

The première of It Is Never Too Late to Mend at the Princess's Theatre on...

(The entire section is 7618 words.)

Robert L. Jackson (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Jackson, Robert L. “Dostoevsky and Freedom.” New Zealand Slavonic Journal (1995): 1-21.

[In the following essay, Jackson examines Dostoevsky's Notes From a Dead House, his account of imprisonment in Siberia, suggesting that although the novel ostensibly addresses the inhumanity of a physical prison, it also imagines Russia itself as a prison.]

There is a breathtaking moment in Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol when the Spirit of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come points to Scrooge's own grave stone. Scrooge anxiously asks: “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that...

(The entire section is 8485 words.)

Tim Youngs (essay date 1999)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Youngs, Tim. “‘A Sonnet out of a Skilly’: Oscar Wilde's ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol.’” Critical Survey 11, no. 3 (1999): 40-7.

[In the following essay, Youngs analyzes Wilde's poignant poem about a prison execution to highlight the ways in which prison changed the poet and his writings, concluding that the sordid, bestial conditions of prison compelled Wilde to confront realism.]

One remarkable career may have been launched at an institution in Reading (John Lucas's, which this volume honours, at the University), but another reached an inglorious end at a different institution there: Oscar Wilde's in Reading Gaol. Perhaps the arrival of John, a...

(The entire section is 3087 words.)