Title

Ghosts of the Tortured Past: Foucauldian Themes in “An Eddy on the Floor”

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Campus where you would like to present

Ellensburg

Event Website

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source

Start Date

15-5-2019

End Date

15-5-2019

Abstract

his paper argues that fictional literary texts, especially obscure ones, can function as windows into history much the same as classic historical documents. In this case, Bernard Capes’ ghost story “An Eddy on the Floor” shows the reader firsthand how the penal landscape of the 17th-19th centuries was changing from one based off of corporal punishment to one of spiritual reform, coinciding with a rise in idealism more generally, hence the ghost story format, a very popular medium of the time. These ideas are placed into context via Michel Foucault's theories outlined in Discipline and Punish: Birth of the Prison, where he observes how, throughout the Georgian-Victorian eras, punishment morphed from that of the body as public spectacle to that of the mind being reformed behind closed doors. In short, the paper examines how his ideas of power and knowledge which completely altered the prison and reformatory systems can be found in literary texts that were being written at the time of these changes. Finally, the possibility of a value-judgment of these changes is speculated upon.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Barry Shelton

Department/Program

English

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May 15th, 1:00 PM May 15th, 2:00 PM

Ghosts of the Tortured Past: Foucauldian Themes in “An Eddy on the Floor”

Ellensburg

his paper argues that fictional literary texts, especially obscure ones, can function as windows into history much the same as classic historical documents. In this case, Bernard Capes’ ghost story “An Eddy on the Floor” shows the reader firsthand how the penal landscape of the 17th-19th centuries was changing from one based off of corporal punishment to one of spiritual reform, coinciding with a rise in idealism more generally, hence the ghost story format, a very popular medium of the time. These ideas are placed into context via Michel Foucault's theories outlined in Discipline and Punish: Birth of the Prison, where he observes how, throughout the Georgian-Victorian eras, punishment morphed from that of the body as public spectacle to that of the mind being reformed behind closed doors. In short, the paper examines how his ideas of power and knowledge which completely altered the prison and reformatory systems can be found in literary texts that were being written at the time of these changes. Finally, the possibility of a value-judgment of these changes is speculated upon.

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source/2019/Oralpres/22