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Grant number: FT-60115-12

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Alison Griffiths
CUNY Research Foundation, Bernard Baruch College (New York, NY 10010-5585)

Cinema, Prisons, and the Making of Modern America

Screens Behind Bars examines how cinema was first used in prisons in the early twentieth century, what the prison context reveals about the social experience of cinema going, and how the prison and cinema shored up the project of Americanizing immigrant audiences. The book makes a unique contribution to the history of film exhibition by delineating the stark yet paradoxically subtle differences between consuming commercial cinema in prison, and film going in civilian life, a tension between the familiarity of the experience and the strangeness of the context (prison chapel). The book also examines reform efforts preceding cinema such as lantern slides, lectures, and vaudeville performances, the screening of Hollywood films in male and female prisons before 1935, the representation of prisons in fictional and nonfictional film, and the lessons to be learnt for the histories of film spectatorship, prison reform, gender relations, and constructions of the nation.

Project fields:
Film History and Criticism

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2012 – 7/31/2012