Great Books Written in Prison

Essays on Classic Works from Plato to Martin Luther King, Jr.


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About the Book

Many of the world’s most important historical figures were imprisoned for holding unpopular or unorthodox beliefs. They used their time behind bars to write books that shaped the course of history. This collection of new essays offers a wide-ranging examination of influential works written—in whole or in part—while their authors were in prison or exile. Each chapter explores a different text and contains a brief biography and summary of the circumstances surrounding the author’s imprisonment, along with a critical examination of the writing and its legacy. Authors covered include Plato, Thomas Paine, Gandhi, Thoreau, Bertrand Russell, Hitler and Martin Luther King, Jr.

About the Author(s)

J. Ward Regan, Ph.D., has taught history and philosophy at New York University’s Liberal Studies program since 1993, and has lectured widely on American and European history through the New York Council for the Humanities. He lives in Brooklyn.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by J. Ward Regan

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7803-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1970-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface (J. Ward Regan) 1
Introduction (J. Ward Regan) 5
Socrates’ Trial and Death by Execution (Farzad Mahootian) 17
Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy: Why Do the Innocent Suffer? (Heidi White) 34
Poetic Justice: The Civilization of the Heart in Malory’s Morte Darthur (Stephanie Kiceluk) 46
A Prisoner of Circumstance: Cervantes, Don Quixote and Literary ­Self-Authorship in the Early Modern Period (Sean Eve) 62
Thomas Paine and The Age of Reason (J. Ward Regan) 78
Thoreau’s Rhetoric of Resistance (Peter Diamond) 93
Epistle from Prison: Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis [Epistola in Carcere et Vinculis] (Joseph J. Portanova) 107
Bertrand Russell, World War I and Analytic Philosophy (Phil Washburn) 123
His Majesty’s Hotels: Gandhi’s Satyagraha in South Africa (Martin F. Reichert) 138
Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India: The Writing of History, Fighting for Freedom in Ahmandnager Jail (Tilottama Tharoor) 153
Drifter’s Escape: Adolf Hitler and the Writing of Mein Kampf (Rolf Wolfswinkel) 167
Antonio Gramsci’s The Prison Notebooks: A Humanist Reconstruction of Marxism (Brendan Hogan) 180
Jean Genet: Our Lady of the Flowers in Prison (Afrodesia E. McCannon) 192
In the Shadows of Prison: Sayyid Qutb’s Visions of a Perfect World (Peter C. Valenti) 204
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and ­Non-Violent Social Transformation (Joyce Apsel) 230
About the Contributors 247
Index 249