Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 5 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 5000 word essay  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit the failed element.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

demonstate a knowledge of the key debates that explore and surround the literature of imprisonment;;

review and summarize contemporary debates about philosophical and literary issues concerning aesthetic representations of atrocity;

formulate advanced responses to complex literary texts and well definned literary-philosophical 'problems' using appropriate literary and theoretical arguments


This module aims:
1. To familiarise students with several crucial areas where literature has engaged with the implications of imprisonment for writers;
2. To investigate the role of the writer in the struggle for human rights, considering the relationship between writing and rights, and the extent to which prisoners of conscience can best express and protest their situation in literary representation.
3. To consider different forms of writing that have emerged from different historical and geographical sites of imprisonment.

Brief description

In response to a history of human rights abuses in recent centuries, writers from Frederick Douglass to Alexander Solzenhitsyn, Nelson Mandela to Viclav Havel, have spoken out against such acts, and served to draw the world's attention to the abuses of its peoples. This module will explore the role of the literatures of captivity in the struggle for human rights, focussing upon such areas of interest as the literature of slavery and abolition; representations of the Gulag; the Holocaust; Japanese American internment; memoirs of Communism; memoirs of northern Korean labour camps; and African national struggles for independence. The module will consider how imprisoned writers represent the tortured body, how many of these narratives turn to querying the construction of the past and the workings and function of memory in their representation of history, and how these narratives insistently return to themes that illustrate the aesthetic problem of reconciling normalilty with horror, the displacement of consciousness of life by the imminence and pervasiveness of death and torture, and the constant violation of the coherence of the self. Many of these writers raise issues to do with aesthetics: can torture be represented 'aesthetically'? How can physical traumas performed on the body be represented in writing? Can one speak about an 'aesthetics of incarceration'? How do literary aesthetics intersect with gross violations of human rights, and how can the power of the imagination conjure up images when a writer is confronted with the dilema of converting into literature a history too terrible to imagine?


Seminar Programme
1. African American Slave Narratives
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845)
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) extracts

2. Japanese American Internment Narratives
Mine Okubo, Citizen 13660 (1946)
Joy Kogawa, Obasan (1981)

3. Holocaust Reflections
Primo Levi, If This is a Man
Taduesz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (1959)

4. Anti-Communist Narratives: China and North Korea
Jung Chang, Wild Swans (1993)
Guo Sheng, The Tears of the Moon (2003) extracts
Kang-Chol Hwan, The Aquariums of Pyongyang (2001)

5. African Improsonment Narratives
Wole Soyinka, The Man Dies: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka (1972)
Albie Sachs, The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs (1966)

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Students' writing in an academic context will be developed and assessed in the coursework. Oral skills will be developed in individual and group work in seminars, but not assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance This will be developed and assessed in the preparation for seminars and in the assessment tasks
Information Technology Students will be strongly encoraged to present their work in word processed form (and will edit PC generated text); they will also be requried to make use of computerized library resources
Personal Development and Career planning This will be addressed in the module's emphasis on independent and group work, and its attempt to develop professional presentational skills
Problem solving This will be developed and assessed in the preparation for seminars and in the assessment tasks
Research skills This will be developed and assessed in the preparation for seminars and in the assessment tasks
Subject Specific Skills Advanced research skills in specific areas of sepcialist literary study
Team work This is built into the pedagogyof teh module - all students will work in pairs and/or groups to comment on issues in relation to texts, and make seminar presentations

Reading List

Recommended Text
(1995.) The Oxford history of the prison :the practice of punishment in western society /edited by Norval Morris, David J. Rothman. Oxford University Press Primo search Caruth, Cathy (1996.) Unclaimed experience :trauma, narrative, and history /Cathy Caruth. Johns Hopkins University Press Primo search Creef, Elena Tajima (2004) Imaging Asian America: The Visual Construction of Citizenship, Nation, and the Body New York UP Primo search Davies, Ioan (1990) Writers in Prison Blackwell Primo search Eaglestone, Robert (2004.) The Holocaust and the postmodern /Robert Eaglestone. Oxford University Press Primo search Ellman, Maud (1993) The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing and Imprisonment Virago Primo search Grice, Helena (2007) Asian American Fiction and History: International Encounters Routledge Primo search Grice, Helena. (2002.) Negotiating identities :an introduction to Asian American women's writing /Helena Grice. Manchester University Press Primo search LaCapra, Dominick (1994) Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory, Trauma Cornell UP Primo search Langer, Lawrence (1975) The Holocaust and Literary Imagination Yale UP Primo search Millett, Kate. (1994.) The politics of cruelty :an essay on the literature of political imprisonment /Kate Millett. Viking Primo search Ong, Aihwa (2003) Buddha is Hiding: Refugees, Citizenship, The New America University of California Press Primo search Scarry, Elaine. (1985.) The body in pain :the making and unmaking of the world /Elaine Scarry. Oxford University Press Primo search Vice, Sue (2000.) Holocaust fiction /Sue Vice. Routledge Primo search Woods, Tim (2007) African Pasts: History and Memory in Aftican Literature MUP Primo search Jacobs, J.U (1991) Kanapipi Confession, Interrogation and Self-Interrogation in the New South African Prison Writing 13/1-2/115-127 Primo search Lovesey, Oliver (1995) Research in African Literatures Chained Letters: African Prison Diaries and "National Alegory" 26/4/31-45 Primo search Roberts, Sheila (1985) Ariel South African Prison Literature 16/2/61-73 Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7