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Title: 'The Blood-Self' : reflections on prison writing
Author: Swann, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 7124
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Chichester
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis analyses the development of an original body of creative work written in response to experiences gained during the 14-month period when I was employed by the Arts Council of England as a Writer-in-Residence at HMP Nottingham Prison (housing mainly lifers and long-term inmates). The creative work arose from a specific jail environment, described in the thesis as being formed from an uneasy combination of punitive, managerial, and rehabilitative concepts. The thesis argues that the creative work owes a direct debt to the ideas and practises that confronted me while I was attempting to build literacy skills in the prison. However, jail is stultifying for both teacher and student - and, ultimately, the thesis goes on to identify the additional, unexpected imaginative prompts that were necessary before the creative work could cohere into a collection. As well as offering analysis of the work's slow evolution, the thesis incorporates a selection of 23 creative prices that emerged. Many of these were collected, a decade after my residency, as a hybrid of prose, poetry, and wood-carvings, entitled The Privilege of Rain (Waterloo Press, 2010), shortlisted in 2011 for the Ted Hughes Award. The creative work was fuelled by a growing desire to pay witness to the 'Prison Works' programme, which transformed the jail. This desire was influenced by my journalistic training, but the thesis describes how I began to discover poetry's potential, and analyses a transformation from reporter to poet. In tracing this transformation, the thesis considers ways in which journalism and poetry differ from, and resemble, each other. Further, it considers the beneficial 'aura' (Parini, 2009: 89) of writers who proved influential in the transformation, including Smith, Colburn, Parker, Liardet, Robison, Swift, and Lawrence. The thesis holds out a measure of hope. As well as discussing poetry's vital part in my own 'human flourishing' (Hesmondhalgh, 2013: 17), it considers the role that Creative Writing may play in the rehabilitation of offenders. First-hand instances of rehabilitation, and verbal evaluations of the efficacy of my residency, are combined with inmate writing to suggest that it is possible for individuals to develop imaginative paths through the jail's 'forest'. However, fear and inertia are identified as two pressures upon the incarcerated imagination. And the thesis argues that these pressures are connected to societal attitudes and policies that are adding to, rather than diminishing, our problems with crime. Underlying the discussion are three main questions: (1) What pressures does jail exert upon the imagination, and creative expression? (2) What forces operated to create the specific prison environment I encountered? (3) Can writing help in the rehabilitation of offenders?
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PE English