This chapter explores and critically considers the act of reading and the motivation for it over time as part of the broader experience of the convict in Australian prisons. Two main analytical methods – empirical historical work in archives and contemporary interviews – have been employed to contrast and compare the historical and contemporary convict experience of reading. Consideration of the place of reading in Australian society is nuanced by the value and power vested in this act as a means to construct a civil society in a challenging and remote environment. Most particularly, the power of reading and its significance are amplified when we consider its place and function in the life of the convict, both past and present. An examination of attitudes towards, and motivations for, the provision of books in prisons both past and present provides insight into attitudes to prison reform and the functions of incarceration. Exploration of the significance and motivations underlying reading and the structures supporting and encouraging it provides a touchstone for contrasting and comparing contemporary attitudes to reform with the historic record, allowing for a wider and more critical lens on these debates. As a measure of civil society, the reading environment can provide the scholar of penology with critical perspectives over an extended period on official attitudes to the debate over reform and punishment and the function prisons have in enacting these missions.
|Title of host publication||The Edinburgh history of reading|
|Subtitle of host publication||Subversive readers|
|Place of Publication||Edinburgh|
|Publisher||Edinburgh University Press|
|Number of pages||21|
|ISBN (Electronic)||9781474461924, 9781474461931|
|Publication status||Published - 30 Jul 2020|