Incarceration and Imagination

A symposium at Yale University
Free and open to the public

Humanities Quadrangle: 320 York Street, New Haven

OCTOBER 14, 2022
HQ L01 (lower level)

Prison has become the punitive shadow to all the major institutions of modernity. How has contemporary mass incarceration shaped inner life, public spectacle, moral possibilities? How does writing from inside and outside prison walls help us imagine a future beyond the carceral state. This day-long symposium in the Humanities Quadrangle at Yale—featuring scholars, prison education advocates, writers, and more—is free and open to all.

The Symposium starts from the fact of mass incarceration in the US today and attempts to understand how mind reacts to imprisonment—both the image and the reality.  For over two centuries, Western societies have built a penal system founded principally on incarceration. How has this fact shaped inner life, public spectacle, moral possibilities? How might artistic creation about incarceration help us bring about a more humane future?

MORNING SESSIONS

9–9:15 a.m. WELCOME

9:15–10:45 a.m. THE LITERARY HISTORY OF THE INCARCERATED MIND

Moderator: Emily Bazelon
Speakers: Phillip Atiba Goff, Rachel Kushner, Caleb Smith
Respondent: Joy James

11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. THE IMAGE OF PRISON IN THE PUBLIC MIND

Moderator: Judith Resnik
Speakers: Elizabeth Hinton, Zachary Lazar, Ekow Yankah
Respondent: Tracey Meares

LUNCH

AFTERNOON SESSIONS

2 p.m.–3:30 p.m. INCARCERATION, DECARCERATION, AND EDUCATION

Moderator: Peter Brooks           
Speakers: Bernard Harcourt, Antonne Henshaw, Zelda Roland
Respondent: Ben Berger

4 p.m.–5:30 p.m. READINGS

               Randall Horton, Richard Rivera, Jesse Krimes

RECEPTION

5:30 p.m. RECEPTION FOR PARTICIPANTS AND AUDIENCE

The painting featured on the symposium poster—Solitary Confinement (2019)— is the work of Kenneth Reams, currently incarcerated on death row in Arkansas. We thank him for allowing us to share his work.

October 12–19: An exhibit to accompany the Incarceration and Imagination Symposium will be on display at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the Library mezzanine. The exhibit includes among other items Austin Reed, “The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict,” a manuscript autobiography from New York’s Auburn State Prison, ca. 1857–58; Chester Himes, “Journey’s End,” a pencil sketch of a prison courtyard; manuscript notes from Alexis de Tocqueville’s and Gustave de Beaumont’s trip to America. 

Sponsored by Whitney Humanities Center, the Arthur Liman Center at Yale Law, and Freedom Reads. The organizers thank Richard Weisberg and the Law and Humanities Institute for additional support for the symposium.