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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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Screens and the Senses in Prison

Screens and the Senses in Prison

(p.113) Chapter Three Screens and the Senses in Prison
Carceral Fantasies

Alison Griffiths

Columbia University Press

Chapter 3: “Screens and the Senses in Prison” examines how film exhibition in prisons across the US and UK was covered in the popular press, trade publications, prisoner-written magazines, books, and articles, and how incarceration’s recalibration of space and time affected the senses in curiously proto-cinematic ways. These accounts reveal a great deal about the distinctive nature of non-theatrical film exhibition in cinema’s earliest decades and the special journalistic attention that the prison as exhibition venue attracted. Documenting some of the earliest uses of film in penitentiaries across the United States, I explore the introduction of prison libraries, illustrated lectures, and vaudeville shows as reformist measures creating the conditions of possibility for cinema; the popular press’s imagining of film spectatorship in prison as a social experiment akin to avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage’s idea of the “untutored eye”; film as a portal to the outside word; and the cell and prison chapel as over-determined, metaphorical spaces of projection.

Keywords:   Prison film exhibition, Prison Entertainment, Sensory deprivation, Prison Chapel, Light in prison

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