Razor Wire Writing

Elvera, you’ve taken the lead, and you and Cathy and Danielle and Mary and Kristol and everyone else who’s commented have helped to make this a place where people can fight back against T-Netix. My brother is in the Maryland prison system at Jessup, and your comments and cooperation and collaborative research are doing so much more for him, and likewise for your families and loved ones, than any of us could have done alone. I’m glad we can all help one another out, and I’m hoping that your faces are some of the faces I see when we’re in the visiting room. With these comments, we’ve got a huge resource of information that we can use to help other people in similar situations, and the more we speak up, the more power we’ll have.

As a graduate student who studies rhetoric, I’ll observe that the curious thing is that every one of us — everyone who comments here, whether on the despicable behavior of T-Netix or on other topics — is talking to multiple audiences. We know tattoos and we know discourse communities. Hermeneutics and lock-in. The beef and the critique. A Thousand Plateaus; three forty on the bench.

So let’s talk mutual interpellation, specially you folks who might want not to venture outside teaching writing. You want literacy? You want a discourse community? We got your discourse community right here, in the populations of the prisons. So talk to me about Discipline and Punish as rhetorical reality rather than literary metaphor.

Talk to me about security-glass literacies.

Razor Wire Writing

4 thoughts on “Razor Wire Writing

  • May 23, 2005 at 8:56 am

    Your last couple of paragraphs are fascinating considering that I’m teaching Critical Literacy this summer, and one of our texts is Newjack by Ted Conover, his account of becoming a prision guard at Sing Sing. And you’re helping me thinking of another spin on it than I was planning to take.

  • May 23, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    Nels, I’ll ask: what does “critical literacy” mean to you, and to your students?

    And yeah, I love Newjack. Fantastic book. I’ve also taught, for various courses, Wideman’s brilliant Brothers and Keepers, portions of Discipline and Punish, Franklin’s usefully comprehensive anthology Prison Writing in 20th Century America, and Megan Foss’s underappreciated essays “Love Letters” and “The Monster Between Us”.

    What else is on your syllabus?

  • May 29, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    Jenn, thanks for the links. I think Ensler’s documentary would work particularly well in conjunction with Foss’s “Love Letters,” and Slam would be fascinating in conjunction with Brothers and Keepers. And so now I’m starting to imagine a whole syllabus of paired texts, including Newjack with sections from Discipline and Punish — OK, so there’s a 300- or 400-level course for me to dream about teaching, one that plays some with Franklin’s title: “Reading and Writing the 20th Century American Prison.”

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