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Literary Collections General

Fitting Sentences

Identity in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Prison Narratives

by (author) Jason Haslam

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
Dec 2005
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    Publish Date
    Dec 2005
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    Dec 2005
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Fitting Sentences is an analysis of writings by prisoners from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in North America, South Africa, and Europe. Jason Haslam examines the ways in which these writers reconfigure subjectivity and its relation to social power structures, especially the prison structure itself, while also detailing the relationship between prison and slave narratives. Specifically, Haslam reads texts by Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Jacobs, Oscar Wilde, Martin Luther King, Jr., Constance Lytton, and Breyten Breytenbach to find the commonalities and divergences in their stories.

While the relationship between prison and subjectivity has been mapped by Michel Foucault and defined as “a strategic distribution of elements” that act “to exercise a power of normalization”, Haslam demonstrates some of the complex connections and dissonances between these elements and the resistances to them. Each work shows how carceral practices can be used to attack a variety of identifications, be they sexual, racial, economic, or any of a variety of social categories. By analysing the works of specific prison writers but not being limited to a single locale or narrow time span, Fitting Sentences offers a significant historical and global overview of a unique genre in literature.

About the author

Jason Haslam is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame.

Jason Haslam's profile page

Other titles by Jason Haslam