Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Robert Reid-Pharr

Committee Members

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Carrie Hintz

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Studies | Latina/o Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Prison Literature, Gothic Literature


Recent scholarship on American prison literature, such as Caleb Smith’s pivotal study The Prison in the American Imagination, has uncovered the power that the terrifying realities of the modern prison have had as an inspiration for the development of Gothic literature, as well as the ways that prison writers have in turn drawn upon these Gothic images. However, these scholars have considered prison writers as passively trapped by Gothic discourses that ultimately objectify them as monsters. In contrast, I will argue that African American and Latina/o prison writers in the post-war period have consciously transformed these Gothic themes in order to critique the prison-industrial complex, as well as call into question conceptions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and justice. In my dissertation I will analyze a spectrum of Gothic strategies used by African American and Latina/o prison writers from the late 20th century—including Jimmy Santiago Baca, Miguel Piñero, Iceberg Slim, Billie Holiday, George Jackson, and Sanyika Shakur—and will show how they reconfigure Gothic conceptions of monstrosity in order to challenge their dehumanization by the state and the politics of mass incarceration.