October 14 Friday

Incarceration & Imagination

  • Friday, October 14, 2022 at 9:00AM - 6:00PM
  • Humanities Quadrangle, 320 York Street, HQ L01 (lower level)
  • Open To The Yale Community
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Prison has become the punitive shadow to all the major institutions of modernity. How has contemporary mass incarceration shaped inner life, public spectacle, moral possibilities? How does writing from inside and outside prison walls help us imagine a future beyond the carceral state. This day-long symposium in the Humanities Quadrangle at Yale—featuring scholars, prison education advocates, writers, and more—is free and open to all. The Symposium starts from the fact of mass incarceration in the US today and attempts to understand how mind reacts to imprisonment—both the image and the reality. For over two centuries, Western societies have built a penal system founded principally on incarceration. How has this fact shaped inner life, public spectacle, moral possibilities? How might artistic creation about incarceration help us bring about a more humane future?


9–9:15 a.m. WELCOME

9:15–10:45 a.m. THE LITERARY HISTORY OF THE INCARCERATED MIND Moderator: Emily Bazelon Speakers: Phillip Atiba Goff, Rachel Kushner, Caleb Smith Respondent: Joy James

11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. THE IMAGE OF PRISON IN THE PUBLIC MIND Moderator: Judith Resnik Speakers: Elizabeth Hinton, Zachary Lazar, Ekow Yankah Respondent: Tracey Meares



2 p.m.–3:30 p.m. INCARCERATION, DECARCERATION, AND EDUCATION Moderator: Peter Brooks Speakers: Bernard Harcourt, Antonne Henshaw, Zelda Roland Respondent: Ben Berger

4 p.m.–5:30 p.m. READINGS Dwayne Betts, Randall Horton, Richard Rivera


The painting featured on the symposium poster—Solitary Confinement (2019)— is the work of Kenneth Reams, currently incarcerated on death row in Arkansas. We thank him for allowing us to share his work.

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Sponsored by Whitney Humanities Center, the Arthur Liman Center at Yale Law, and Freedom Reads. The organizers thank Richard Weisberg and the Law and Humanities Institute for additional support for the symposium.