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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Letters in Here are Like Gold: The Prison Literacy Project

Tamara Miles.

Based on a composition course featuring texts with an emphasis on imprisonment, this work examines key figures in literature who wrote from prison/jail cells: Malcolm X, Oscar Wilde, and Martin Luther King, for example. Its thesis argues that the worst imprisonment is that of a trapped mind.

As surely as Laura Wingfield of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie hides in her world of glass figurines, the prisoner often hides in a world of images and vague ideas without explanation. Literature helps them find the explanation; it helps them to understand themselves and others. Literacy empowers people unlike any other tool or weapon; words strike at the heart and build bridges.

Part of the research for this project involved regular correspondence with four current federal prisoners in order to centralize the focus on the epistolary form of communication/literature.

Outline of presentation:
- Look at paper copies of website which features my syllabus with the theme of imprisonment.
- Key figures writing from prison
- Literacy as transforming tool/weapon
- The epistolary form of communication/literature
- Practical application of prison literacy project


Tamara Miles  (United States)
English Department
State University of West Georgia

I received the Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Jacksonville State University in 1997 and the Master of Arts Degree in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2000. After two years of part-time and full-time temporary employment at local universities and community colleges, I recently accepted a full-time instructor's position at the State University of West Georgia. I have a keen interest in global attitudes toward the human body and its eccentricities.

  • Web resources
  • Imprisonment
  • Literacy
Person as Subject
  • Malcolm X, "Learning to Read" Oscar Wilde, "De Profundis" Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

(30 min Conference Paper, English)