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Dystopic prisons in pantoptic fiction

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Phillipa Weeks Staff Library

ANU College of Law

5 Fellows Road

The Australian National University, Acton

Australia

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Over the centuries, Bentham’s Panopticon scheme has triggered a wide range of political, philosophical and literary responses. The present research wishes to shed new light on panoptic references in “Vigilance” (Patrick McGrath, 1989), Green River Rising (Tim Willocks, 1994) and The Panopticon (Jenni Fagan, 2013) from a prison management perspective, focusing on the representations of prison staff and management, rather than on inmates.

The unbuilt panoptic prison was brought to life unexpectedly by literary fictions. Novels thus make it possible to explore the scheme, providing relevant representation of how it could have operated. They highlight the successes and flaws of the panoptic project in the prison or juvenile detention system. They also resonate with the social and political issues which were discussed at the time when they were written. Taking into account both the context of writing and the creative freedom writers take with the original Bentham project, the talk aims to show that these novels or short stories are dystopian representations of both Bentham’s scheme and contemporary prison management.

Anne Brunon-Ernst is Professor in Legal English at Panthéon-Assas University (Paris, France), researcher at the Centre Bentham (Sciences Po, Paris) and visiting fellow at the Centre for Law, Arts and the Humanities (CLAH, ANU) for 2019. She is member of the Law&Humanities research team at the Cersa (Panthéon-Assas). Her interests focus on legal theory and political philosophy.

Her research has been centered around Bentham's Panopticon schemes ((ed.) Beyond Foucault, Ashgate, 2012); and around utilitarianism in Foucault's thought (Utilitarian Biopolitics, Pickering & Chatto, 2012). She is now working on the concept of indirect legislation both in Bentham and in its contemporary reappropriations ((ed) Nudges : Better Choices ? spec. issue in The Tocqueville Review/ La Revue Tocqueville, 2016; (ed) Indirect Legislation: Bentham’s Regulatory Revolution spec. issue in History of European Ideas, 2017; (ed) Nudges et Normativités, Hermann, 2018; (ed) Concurrence des normativités spec issue in Revue internationale de droit économique, 2019).

A former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyons, Claire Wrobel holds the agrégation and a doctorate in English from the University Paris Ouest-Nanterre. She is currently an Assistant Professor in English at the Panthéon-Assas University (Paris II) and also teaches literature and translation at Paris Sciences et Lettres. She is a member of the VALE research center (Voix Anglophones Littérature et Esthétique, Paris-Sorbonne) and an associate member of the Bentham center (Sciences Po Paris) and of the Law and Humanities branch of the CERSA (Paris II).

Her PhD dissertation was entitled “The Gothic and the Panopticon; a cross-reading of the works of Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)”. She has published articles on Gothic authors such as Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Arthur Machen and is also looking into reworkings of Gothic tropes in contemporary works like Rachel Cusk’s Arlington Park (2006) or Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad (2013). She is interested in the interconnections between Gothic literature and penal reform, and has presented and published articles on various aspects of Bentham's thought (penal theory, Panopticon plan in England and New South Wales, theory of fictions as a possible bridge with literary fiction).

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Phillipa Weeks Staff Library

ANU College of Law

5 Fellows Road

The Australian National University, Acton

Australia

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