Literary Journalism Goes Inside Prison: Just Sentences opens up a new exploration of literary journalism – immersive, long-form journalism so beautifully written that it can stand as literature – in the first anthology to examine literary journalism and prison.
In this book, a wide range of compelling subjects are considered. These include Nelson Mandela and other prisoners of apartheid; the made-in-prison podcast Ear Hustle; women’s experiences of life behind bars; Behrouz Boochani’s 2018 bestseller No Friend but the Mountains; George Orwell’s artful writing on incarceration; Pete Earley’s immersion into the largest prison in the United States, The Hot House; Arthur Koestler and the Spanish Civil War; Ted Conover’s year as a prison guard in Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing and (most originally) Bruce Springsteen’s execution narrative Nebraska.
This volume will benefit anyone who writes, studies or teaches any form of narrative nonfiction. Eleven international scholars articulate what makes the work they are analysing so exceptional. At the same time, they offer insights on a diverse range of vital topics. These include journalism ethics, journalism and trauma, media history, cultural studies, criminology and social justice.
Introduction: Intimate Understanding through Profound Immersion
David Swick and Richard Lance Keeble
Nothing Barred: How Reporting Can Humanise the Criminal ‘Other’
1. On Death Row: Giving Voice to Apartheid’s Forgotten Prisoners
Peter Auf Der Heyde
2. ‘Feeling the Facts’: Literary Journalism, Colonialism and Behrouz Boochani’s
No Friend but the Mountains
3. ‘We Risked a Whole Newspaper’: Thami Mkhwanazi’s Robben Island Series
and the Weekly Mail
Fully Inside? The Challenges of ‘Immersion’ Reporting
4. Writing from the Inside: First-Person Reportage of Prison Life by the Incarcerated
5. The Sorry Places: Cristina Rathbone’s A World Apart
Christopher P. Wilson
6. The Architecture of Immersive Writing: Sites of (Self-)Scrutiny in Ted Conover’s Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing
7. The Hot House: Reporting and Writing Strategies to Navigate Deep Immersion
Breaking Out: Exploring Diverse Definitions for Literary Journalism
8. Dialogues with Death: Fact, Fiction and the Many Adaptations of Arthur Koestler’s Prison Narrative
9. George Orwell: Making Writing on Prisons ‘An Art’
Richard Lance Keeble
10. Ear Hustle: Connecting to Prison Life Through a Narrative Podcast
Dawn K. Cecil
11. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Reportorial Story Songs’ – Grace and Kinship on Death Row
Afterword: Journalists’ Many Creative Ways of Covering the Correctional System
Nancy L. Roberts
This much needed, timely collection engages with prison writing in a radically new way. At a time when civil liberties are increasingly at peril and democratic freedoms are under threat, the diversity of authors presented, the variety of texts studied, and the range of methods showcased reveal the deep commitment and manifest strike force of literary journalism.
As the editors rightly argue, immersion is key to the genre. Literary journalism allows for innovative approaches and original insights, not only by incarcerated people but by journalists skilled at overcoming obstacles.
The editors’ tour de force lies in presenting chapters focusing on both well-known – Mandela, Boochani, Koestler, Orwell, Conover – and unexpected case studies. Together, they convincingly make the case that literary journalism is an excellent genre to tell inspirational stories of courage and resilience.
Isabelle Meuret, Associate Professor, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
This remarkable book of scholarship examines the unique power of literary journalism across the globe to illuminate one of life’s darkest experiences. It explores questions pivotal to the field of literary journalism studies and our emerging understanding of prison life.
These include… what might immersion reporting reveal when the writer is incarcerated? How can journalists from “outside” navigate the tensions between prisoners’ values and their own? How can literary journalism about prison enrich and be enriched by other storytelling genres: memoir, letters, oral histories, audio narratives, encrypted digital messages, even songwriting? And how can anyone — reporter or subject — write without restraint about a world of restraints?
Lisa Phillips, Associate Professor, Digital Media and Journalism, State University of New York, New Paltz, NY, USA