Expert on U.S. penal system to speak at Bates College

Caleb Smith, an expert in the legal and cultural development of the U.S. penal system, offers a lecture at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 15, in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives at Bates College, 70 Campus Ave.

Sponsored by the English department, the Emily Carroll Carleton Lecture at Bates is open to the public at no cost. A reception will follow.

Smith’s lecture at Bates is titled after his book The Prison and the American Imagination (Yale University Press, 2009), which gives special attention to an inmate’s figurative passage from civil death to a secular rebirth.

Smith is an assistant professor of English at Yale University. His teaching interests range from American, African and Native American literature to law, historicism, prison studies and the critique of power.

“I am interested in how literary texts of various genres have involved themselves with such problems as punishment, secular justice, human rights and legal personhood,” Smith writes in his Yale bio.

Smith is working on his second book, which explores the public culture of justice in the Revolutionary and antebellum periods. The book considers legal, religious and literary texts in which speakers call upon a higher law as a source of their authority. Smith argues that such invocations enacted new ways of summoning public power in the era of print and popular sovereignty.

The Emily Carroll Carleton Lecture is funded by the King Family Charitable Lead Trust in honor of Emily Carroll Carleton ’99.

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