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2011/12 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3247 Discipline and Punish: The Modern Prison on Stage and Screen

20 creditsClass Size: 30


Module manager: Professor Stephen Bottoms

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2011/12

Pre-requisite qualifications

Grade B at 'A' Level in English Language or Literature (or equivalent) or an achieved mark of 56 or above in a Level 1 module in English (or its non-UK equivalent).

Please note: This module is restricted to Levels 2 & 3 students.

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module considers the dramatisation of prison life on both stage and screen, and the way in which such dramas explore a variety of complex social and personal issues."Prisons communicate meaning not just about crime and punishment," writes criminologist Alison Liebling, "but also about power, authority, legitimacy, normalcy, morality, personhood and social relations." These themes are variously apparent in the plays and films studied on this course. We will also consider the ways in which depictions of criminality intersect with constructions of class, race and gender. What do these various representations of incarceration have to tell us about social attitudes both to convicted criminals and to the system that imprisons them?


On completion of this module, students should be able to apply their critical and contextual understanding to a range of representations (textual, dramatic, filmic) of prisons and criminal justice contexts.

They should be able to identify recurring issues concerning the depiction of criminality and its punishment through incarceration, and to discuss these issues through reference to relevant theoretical sources.

They should also have gained an understanding of the particular strengths of drama / performance as a medium for depicting these situations and questions.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
Developing analytical skills in reading plays and films as cultural texts. Includes analysis of dramatic dialogue and staging; analysis of performance semiotics; analysis of film techniques including editing, cinematography etc.


This module examines a variety of dramas set in both men’s and women’s prisons. The films range from popular Hollywood classics such as Cool Hand Luke (1967) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994), to the controversial British film Scum (1979).

The plays studied include work by Tennessee Williams, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Rona Munro. We will also look at accounts of the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment, a role-play exercise that got dangerously out of hand.

Our analyses of these dramas will be informed by selected theoretical and criminological literature on issues around punishment and rehabilitation, surveillance and control.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading, seminar preparation and essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Seminar and workshop contribution
- First assignment.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,750 words66.70
AssignmentEITHER a creative response to the course material (e.g. creative writing, short theatre presentation, or video piece), OR a second essay of 1,700 words33.30
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/03/2012


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