“Through the Bars of My Memory”

Prison Life Writing and the Prison Movement of the 1970s and 1980s

“Through the Bars of My Memory” investigates how prison experiences are remembered and constructed in 40 autobiographical prison texts published during the prison movement of the 1970s and 1980s. It explores how the autobiographers narratively construct their identities in the process of remembering their prison experiences and how the texts position themselves to the prison movement via these identity constructions.

The study demonstrates how the autobiographical texts negotiate the protagonist’s identity to be perceived as a legitimate voice in the prison movement and as a rightful subject of reform efforts thereby participating in the struggles raging over the future of the prison system during that time. The analysis focuses on the construction of collective identification, the negotiation of the label of perpetrator and the construction of victimhood, and the positioning towards rehabilitation through the construction of identity transformation processes.