Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A05. Prison Literature

The story of ancient philosophy fits between two prison bookends, one Greek, one Latin: Plato’s story of Socrates in prison (Phaedo, Crito), and Boethius’ own prison narrative (The Consolation of Philosophy). Taking these as starting points, we will then read together from more modern classics of the literature of prison and incarceration, including: Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, Elie Wiesel’s Night, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison, and the collection from the contemporary women’s prison writing project directed by the novelist Wally Lamb, Couldn’t Keep it to Myself. Students will work on individual research projects on other authors/prisoners/martyrs of their choice. Is there freedom to be found in prison? Do solitude, confinement, and suffering, whether just or unjust, allow the writer in prison to discover the true self when everything else is stripped away?

Joel C. RelihanJoel C. Relihan
Professor of Classics