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Title: Objects of Correction: Literature and the Birth of Modern Punishment
Authors: Ritger, Matthew
Advisors: Cormack, Bradin
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Correction
Subjects: English literature
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the impact of humanist education, the changes of the Reformation, and the emergence of capitalism and colonialism all gave rise to an equally momentous revolution in carceral technology. This was the birth of “correction,” or the argument that punishments for minor crimes ought to go beyond retribution, and beyond deterrence, to aim at reintegrating offenders into society as well. This idea was first institutionalized in the “house of correction,” beginning in the 1550s with London’s Bridewell, which became the first prison anywhere in early modern Europe to combine short sentences with punitive work-training. By the 1630s a network of houses of correction extended across England, offering an institutional model and a culture of work discipline that could be exported, along with its convicts, to the American colonies. Objects of Correction charts the surprising extent to which imaginative literature was involved in this carceral revolution. Bridewell, the original house of correction, was located next door to Shakespeare’s indoor theater at Blackfriars—a gallery bridge connected the two—and workshops in the prison made puppets for the stage. The first English translations of More’s Utopia, with its famous ideas about penal reform, were commissioned and promoted by some of Bridewell's strongest propagandists. Milton pushed reading as a means of self-discipline, while his associates in the Hartlib Circle re-imagined houses of correction as “Literary work-houses.” Objects of Correction recast the so-called “Golden Age” entirely, by showing how English literature defined itself against the carceral institutions of its time. Working upward from the practices, institutions, philosophy, rhetoric, and even the syntax of early modern culture, Objects of Correction also offers a provocative account of "correction" itself, in the centuries before this argument became modernity’s most powerful justification for punishment.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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