Matthew Ritger: Jacobus Fellow in English

Matthew Ritger: Jacobus Fellow in English


MATTHEW RITGER: The title
of my dissertation is “Objects of
Correction: Literature, and the Birth of
Modern Punishment.” [MUSIC PLAYING] BRADIN CORMACK: I’ve had the pleasure
of advising Matthew Ritger along with my colleagues, Leonard
Barkan, Sophie Gee, and Nigel Smith. MATTHEW RITGER: I study the 16th and
17th century, which for most people means either
Shakespeare or Milton. But I study the way that
literature of that era was related to the carceral
history of the same era. BRADIN CORMACK: Matthew is immensely
creative and imaginative. He’s extremely disciplined
as a reader and critic and historian. He’s voracious in his reading. MATTHEW RITGER: The beginning of the
idea that you could use work training and work discipline and
use temporary punishments as a way of reintroducing
people to the workforce, that began in this period. And that began at
these places called the houses of correction,
and at this place called Bridewell in London. So that’s Bridewell
palace/prison. And you can see the
two courtyards that became the prison
cells, and then you can also see the long gallery
heading north-south there. And that long gallery
with the giant windows was, on the one hand,
the famous aspect of the palace that would seem
to be so ill-suited to becoming a prison. But because they were
creating workshops, and because there’s
no electricity, and they need the light,
the workshops actually were in these double-paneled
hall of incredibly tall windows so that they could
work on their projects and have the light to do so. I think when you’re a graduate
student, you spend so long just having to have faith
that your ideas are good, or that they will be rewarded,
or that the work you do matters, but that there are
really few opportunities where someone steps back
and really stands behind your work in such a way. And so that feels
baffling and amazing. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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