Abstract

This article argues that what Victor Brombert calls the “Happy Prison” is haunted and supported by its dehumanizing gothic double: the “Terrible Prison.” The article traces the boundaries of the Happy Prison in Whitman’s “The Singer in the Prison,” then turns to a text that hinges on an ambiguous relationship to representation and reality—Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance—to argue that the early penitentiary had lying in its heart both a theoretical and a very much acknowledged praxis of terror that simultaneously supported and undermined its supposedly humanitarian goals. The argument then returns to Whitman, to show how his Happy Prison—much as Hawthorne’s reformers’ enlightened penitentiary and their other utopian communal project—already has its double chained to it, in the form of the material prisoner that is left over as an unnameable remainder of reformative prison practices and their literary echoes in the Happy Prison.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 1-22
Launched on MUSE
2017-09-29
Open Access
No
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