Date of Completion

Fall 12-15-2019

Thesis Advisor(s)

Frederick Roden

Honors Major



Literature in English, North America | Women's Studies


Our criminal-justice system mandates the silencing and disappearing of 2.3 million people, a consequence of its historical context as an inherently violent institution, carrying on traditions of slavery, oppression, and extortion. While any voice that makes it out of a prison cell is resisting the effort to silence, smother, and make compliant the voices of those labeled criminal, the form of publication of that voice allows more or less agency to the author depending on its conventions and structures. There is a spectrum from more controlled or mediated forms of publications to more author-directed ones and they vary over the amount of authorial license they allow. From the controlled end, there are collected anthologies of narratives, which range from collections created in classroom settings to transcribed collections in which inmates dictate their experiences to an amanuensis. The other end of the spectrum holds works published by and for incarcerated women, such as ‘zines, online forums or chat-boards, and various other publications. Because these forms are created by women in prison, without the oversight of the law, an academic program, or need for profit in the “outside” world, they allow much more freedom for the author. In order to foster agency for the voices, needs, and demands of a population already silenced to the point of being disappeared, one must determine the characteristics which lend themselves to that agency against the details which take power away. When these details go uninvestigated, publications can perpetuate existing systems of oppression.