By Brian Jarvis
From the excesses of Puritan patriarchs to the barbarism of slavery and on into the prison-industrial advanced, punishment within the US has an extended and ugly background. within the post-Vietnam period, the legal inhabitants has elevated tenfold and the loss of life penalty has loved a renaissance. Few topics in modern US society impress as a lot controversy as punishment. during this context, merciless and strange goals to supply the 1st complete exploration of the heritage of punishment because it has been mediated in American tradition. Grounding his research in Marxist conception, psychoanalysis and Foucault’s influential paintings on self-discipline, Brian Jarvis examines a number cultural texts, from 17th century execution sermons to twenty-first century criminal movies, to discover the politics, economics and erotics of punishment. This wide-ranging and interdisciplinary survey constructs a family tree of cruelty via shut interpreting of novels by way of Hawthorne and Melville, fictional money owed of the Rosenberg execution through Coover and Doctorow, slave narratives and legal writings via African americans and the severely overlooked style of yankee legal motion pictures. within the technique, merciless and weird unmasks a primary clash among legends of liberty within the Land of the unfastened and the key, silenced histories of sadomasochistic wish, punishment for revenue and social keep an eye on.
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Additional info for Cruel And Unusual: Punishment and U.S. Culture
Fear of surveillance, as in Hester’s case, results in the internalisation of the disciplinary gaze: ‘[Dimmesdale] kept vigils, likewise, night after night … viewing his own face in a looking-glass, by the most powerful light he could throw upon it. 120). Dimmesdale’s performance as ideal penitentiary inmate recalls the institutional symbiosis between monastery and prison that provided rhetorical sanction for the new disciplinary practices. For his part in this performance, the ‘Physician of the soul’ monitors, interviews and takes notes.
Puritan justice, with its emphasis on public performance, conforms in this respect to Foucault’s model of classical punishment. The guilty were carted through the streets, confined to the stocks or the whipping post, displayed on the pillory, gallows, or church steps, often at midday to guarantee exposure to the largest possible audience. Lengthy sermons were routinely delivered prior to an execution, with the intention of extracting a spectacular last-minute confession and repentance from the condemned.
Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! 152. My italics) Foregrounding the key word in the new penal system, Hawthorne proclaims that there can be no closure without the public retribution that Dimmesdale finally embraces on the scaffold. 140). Advocates of the ‘penitentiary house’ in the North worked hard to distance themselves from analogies with the ‘domestic institution’ in the South. Abolitionist propaganda equated discipline within the plantation prison with sexual degeneracy.
Cruel And Unusual: Punishment and U.S. Culture by Brian Jarvis