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Prison Fictions and Writing Imprisonment

Thursday 21 June 2012, 5.30PM

Speaker(s): Erwin James, Professor David Wilson, Lynda Radley and Gillian Slovo

Erwin James 

This event explores a variety of approaches to writing about incarceration and the experience of imprisonment from a range of different perspectives.

All of our speakers have experience of writing in and/or about prisons. Erwin James, a former prisoner and now writer and journalist, will speak about his efforts to convey prison experiences through the process of writing.

David Wilson 

Professor David Wilson, a former prison governor and now academic, will speak to issues of imprisonment, the organization of prisons and popular representations of imprisonment.



Finally, Gillian Slovo will speak about two divergent but overlapping texts about imprisonment – 117 Days, her mother’saccount of detention without trial in South Africa, and a new Guantanamo memoir she is currently writing.

These speakers take us from the UK, through South Africa and out to Guantanamo. Their diverse experiences and forms of writing demonstrate the specificity of imprisonment and its representation for each particular individual and situation.

Yet their overlapping concerns with the difficulties involved in such acts of representation, and the wider socio-economic and political patterns behind systems of incarceration demonstrate fundamental and telling connections between prison fictions and writings about imprisonment in a global as well as local context.

Admission: by free ticket only, available from

This event is supported by:

  • The Department of English and Related Literature, York
  • York PEN, a new student-led group
  • English PEN, a charity promoting freedom of expression

Also on the day …

Lynda Radley 

This evening session is preceded in the day by other speakers and activities, including the launch of launch York PEN, and speakers including playwright Lynda Radley, will address issues around creative writing in prisons.

Members of the public are welcome to attend these sessions – beginning at 3pm – and can contact the organisers directly for more information or simply turn up on the day (same venue – Berrick Saul Building).  

Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, University of York