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Place-ing the Prison Officer

The ‘Warder’ in the British Literary and Cultural Imagination

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Cornelia Wächter

The sadistic prison ‘warder’ is an all-too-familiar figure in the literary and cultural imagination of Britain and beyond. This distorted image continues to be informed by the stereotypically oppressive gaolers of old – trailing the figurative stench of the dungeon behind them. Even today, prison officers can, for instance, function as scapegoats to compensate for society’s guilty conscience or as fictional vehicles to promote prison reform.
This book seeks to redress this misrepresentation of the prison officer by drawing attention to counter-discursive examples: deploying and developing spatial and cognitive narratological frameworks, it examines prison literature that lends a voice to prison officers and/or grants them a complex fictional representation. A review of traditional depictions of ‘warders’ in classics of prison literature prepares the ground for the discussion of contemporary prison officer memoirs and the representation of officers in fictional works by Brendan Behan, Allan Guthrie and Louise Dean.
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Christoph Ehland and Cornelia Wächter

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Edited by Christoph Ehland and Cornelia Wächter

Scholars of the middlebrow have demonstrated that the preferences and choices of both women writers and women readers have suffered considerably from the dismissive attitude of earlier critics. George Eliot’s famous attack on ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’ set the tone for the long tradition of gendered disputes over the literary merit of works of fiction – a controversy which eventually coalesced with a class-based hegemony of taste in the so-called Battle of the Brows.

The new research presented in this volume demonstrates that this gendered inflection of the critical debate is not only one-sided but tends to obfuscate the significance the middlebrow literary spectrum had for the wider dissemination of new concepts of gender. By exploring the scope of middlebrow media culture between 1890 and 1945, from household magazines to popular novels, the essays in this volume give evidence of the relative proximity that existed between middlebrow writers and the avant-garde in their concern for gender issues.

Contributors: Nicola Bishop, Elke D’hoker, Petra Dierkes-Thrun, Stephanie Eggermont, Christoph Ehland, Wendy Gan, Emma Grundy Haigh, Kate Macdonald, Louise McDonald, Tara MacDonald, Isobel Maddison, Ann Rea, Cornelia Wächter, Alice Wood
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Christoph Ehland and Cornelia Wächter