Carceral Fantasies

Cinema and Prison in Early Twentieth-Century America

Alison Griffiths

Columbia University Press

Carceral Fantasies

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Pub Date: August 2016

ISBN: 9780231161060

472 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $40.00£32.95

Pub Date: August 2016

ISBN: 9780231541565

472 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $39.99£32.95

Carceral Fantasies

Cinema and Prison in Early Twentieth-Century America

Alison Griffiths

Columbia University Press

A groundbreaking contribution to the study of nontheatrical film exhibition, Carceral Fantasies tells the little-known story of how cinema found a home in the U.S. penitentiary system and how the prison emerged as a setting and narrative trope in modern cinema. Focusing on films shown in prisons before 1935, Alison Griffiths explores the unique experience of viewing cinema while incarcerated and the complex cultural roots of cinematic renderings of prison life.

Griffiths considers a diverse mix of cinematic genres, from early actualities and reenactments of notorious executions to reformist exposés of the 1920s.She connects an early fascination with cinematic images of punishment and execution, especially electrocutions, to the attractions of the nineteenth-century carnival electrical wonder show and Phantasmagoria (a ghost show using magic lantern projections and special effects). Griffiths draws upon convict writing, prison annual reports, and the popular press obsession with prison-house cinema to document the integration of film into existing reformist and educational activities and film's psychic extension of flights of fancy undertaken by inmates in their cells. Combining penal history with visual and film studies and theories surrounding media's sensual effects, Carceral Fantasies illuminates how filmic representations of the penal system enacted ideas about modernity, gender, the body, and the public, shaping both the social experience of cinema and the public's understanding of the modern prison.
Alison Griffiths's examination of how movie exhibition came into prisons is truly groundbreaking. No one has studied the culture of movie-going behind bars in this fashion before. A unique and absolutely exciting work! Dana Polan, author of Scenes of Instruction: The Beginnings of the U.S. Study of Film
Carceral Fantasies is a complex and highly original book that attends the intersections between various early cinema images of prisons and the real thing. Griffiths has a fascinating story to tell, in which she argues that we can view execution films as a kind of attraction—and in doing so are led to ponder: what constitutes an attraction? Jon Lewis, author of American Film: A History
List of Figures
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I: The Carceral Imaginary
1. Tableaux Mort: Execution, Cinema, and Carceral Fantasies
2. Prison on Screen: The Carceral Aesthetic
Part II: The Carceral Spectator
3. Screens and the Senses in Prison
4. "The Great Unseen Audience": Sing Sing Prison and Motion Pictures
Part III: The Carceral Reformer
5. A Different Story: Recreation and Cinema in Women's Prisons and Reformatories
6. Cinema and Prison Reform
Conclusion: The Prison Museum and Media Use in the Contemporary Prison
Notes
Filmography
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Alison Griffiths is professor of film and media studies at Baruch College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. Her Columbia University Press books are Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View (2008) and Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture (2002).