UNH Scholar Explores What Prisons Say About American Society

UNH Scholar Explores What Prisons Say About American Society

Mar 22, 2012

Prison is an institution that the humanities should have something to say about, says Courtney Marshall, assistant professor of English and women’s studies. With over 2 million Americans behind bars, the most by far of any country in the world, incarceration is that aspect of American life that seldom makes it to the forefront of public concern.

Marshall is exploring the different ways in which African Americans have been defined as criminals. What makes Marshall’s work unique is her focus on black women’s literature to explore the subject of prison and race in America.

Marshall will publish her findings as her first book, Apprehending Black Womanhood: Prisons and Punishment in African-American Women’s Literature.  She hopes that her book will be part of a growing conversation about the implications and effects of the American prison system.

The more people who talk about these issues, the better, Marshall contends. “The numbers of folks of color in prison is growing—it’s mushrooming, and the humanities should have something to say about this institution, the way we have something to say about religion, marriage, and science,” Marshall says. “This thing that’s right in our midst that drives so many of our cultural fantasies about freedom and labor and race—what do we have to say?”

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