Larson Details Prison Writing Class in <em>Chronicle</em> Essay - Hamilton College

Larson Details Prison Writing Class in Chronicle Essay

Professor of English and Creative Writing Doran Larson published an essay “Writing Behind the Wall” in The Chronicle of Higher Education (8/1/10). The piece details Larson’s experiences in teaching creative writing at a maximum security prison and the related class he teaches at Hamilton, “20th Century American Prison Writing.”

In The Chronicle essay Larson describes a trip to the prison writing class with two students from his Hamilton class. “I didn't know what would happen when I first brought undergraduates into this prison,” Larson writes. “As with most successful teaching, though, the value of the effort has been revealed by the players themselves.”

In describing the Hamilton students’ visit, Larson writes “(the students) seem caught in a slightly out-of-body experience. It happens to everyone the first time in: passing through a 30-foot-high wall, 15 automated gates, and nests of disgruntled-looking corrections officers, past inmates walking in military formation, glancing through barred windows at men huddled at outdoor phones or tables claimed by gangs as a cold drizzle falls through stadium lights. Yet the moment the men enter the classroom, I see a change in my students' eyes: The institution vanishes as Paul, Mohammed, Mandrake, Dan, Radman, and the others step into the room and shed the pall of jailface—grinning and grateful to be out from under the eyes of the officers and their own dangerous cohorts.”

Larson has been teaching the writing class at the prison for three years.

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