Rhetoric of the Wisewoman and the Madwoman: SAMLA 2013

Perspectives on Confined Women Throughout History


Courtney Polidori, SAMLA, courtney.polidori@tcnj.edu

From wisewomen, witches and warriors, to madwomen and monsters, confined females have been represented through a variety of rhetorical strategies that mask the complexities of their characters. This panel seeks papers that look beyond the rhetoric to the nuances of imprisoned women in fiction and non-fiction, such as “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Anne Frank’s diary, to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and prisoners’ memoirs. Women’s prison literature is the focus of the panel, and papers by women prisoners and their teachers will be welcomed enthusiastically, but papers on male prisoners are also invited.

Consider the following topics:

  • How do women make meaning in confined spaces?
  • Prisons as mental institutions
  • Angela Davis’ notion of the “hyperinvisibility of women prisoners”
  • Kathryn Watterson’s image of the “concrete womb”
  • Judith Scheffler’s notion of “the female dispossessed”
  • (Dis)embodiment: the female body in prison
  • Coming of age: incarceration of children and parents
  • Confinement in fairy tales
  • Forced bed rest
  • Prisoner-heroes (Jean Valjean)
  • Film depictions of confined spaces
  • Women prisoners as “doubly marginalized”
  • Writers that worked with prisoners, such as Christina Rossetti
  • Red tents, quarantines, illness, and plague
  • Teaching in prison
  • Food and drink
  • Communities/ sisterhoods
  • Spirituality
  • Serving time for the cause: political prisoners, civil rights activists, suffragists
  • Reforms and the history of women’s prisons
  • Salem witch trials
  • The gaze
  • Prison as social control
  • The criminality of drug laws
  • Poverty and the economic basis of women’s crime
  • Race
  • Prisoners as slave labor
  • Angela Davis’ notion of the “prison industrial complex”
  • Barbara Owen’s notion of the “imprisonment binge”
  • PEN American Center

Please submit a proposal of 500 words, CV, and 350-word bio to Courtney Polidori, The College of New Jersey, by May 17, 2013 at Courtney.polidori@tcnj.edu.

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