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Carceral FantasiesCinema and Prison in Early Twentieth-Century America$
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Alison Griffiths

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780231161060

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231161060.001.0001

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Prison on Screen

Prison on Screen

The Carceral Aesthetic

(p.55) Chapter Two Prison on Screen
Carceral Fantasies

Alison Griffiths

Columbia University Press

Chapter 2: “Prison on Screen: The Carceral Aesthetic” examines how actuality, reconstruction, and fictional films representing prisons and prisoners made before cinema’s transitional era in the mid teens construct a carceral imaginary that was indebted to precinematic visions of imprisonment at the same time they established new conventions around visualizing incarceration. Beyond identifying the visual tropes used in prison dramas to signify the imprisonment, this chapter examines conventional and subversive narrative spaces carved out for prison trick films and dramas and asks whether films made prior to the transitional era open up alternative ways of theorizing carcerality.

Keywords:   Early prison films, Carceral aesthetic, Prison icnonography, Escape films, Trick films, Convicts

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