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Narrating the Prison: Role and Representation in Charles Dickens' Novels, Twentieth- ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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Narrating the Prison:

Chapter One

Introduction

This book investigates the ways in which Charles Dickens’ mature fiction, prison novels of the twentieth century, and prison films narrate the prison.1 In other words, it looks at the depiction of British and American institutions that hold captives. Since most people lack first-hand experience of the prison and gain their ‘knowledge’ through indirect means, it is of primary importance to deal with fictional representations of the prison to get an understanding of how the prison has entered the cultural subconscious. For good or ill, prison narratives influence the cognitive categories of their recipients and thus the popular understanding of the prison.

This study looks at prison novels and films from four interrelated perspectives and addresses the ideological underpinnings of these prison narratives; the representation of the prison experience; the role of prison metaphors; and narratological questions concerning similarities, differences, and continuities between Dickens’ mature novels, twentieth-century fiction, and films.

This book deals with the ideological underpinnings of prison novels and films, i.e., the question of whether they generate cultural understandings of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the prison.