Dec 24, 2014

Prison Beefcake

After a B.A. in Modern Languages, a English, and a  Ph.D. in Sociology with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality, how in the world did I end up teaching penology?

The history of prisons.

Well, we do cover crime among the Ibo of West Africa, the Medieval penitentes, Marco Polo, the Puritan City on the Hill, Montesquieu, John Locke, the Napoleonic Empire, Gothic architecture, Charles Dickens, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, the Jazz Age, the youth counterculture of the 1960s, and the rise of the Religious Right in the 1980s.

Besides, researching prisons has some advantages over Chaucer and Cervantes.

The research subjects are quite an eyeful.

Try putting this picture on a powerpoint presentation for Chaucer class.

There's even beefcake art, friezes, murals, and paintings produced by or for the inmates.

The most famous is a statue of two naked guys called "Elmira: Builder of Men," installed outside Elmira Reformatory in New York in 1951.

Here sculptor Ernfred Anderson poses with one of his inmate models.

Unfortunately, the finished statue got the fig-leaf treatment.

Ernfred Anderson, by the way, was born in Sweden but moved to America in 1931, where he taught at Elmira College and ran an art gallery with his partner Lars Hoftrup.  Since neither he nor Hoftrup have wives listed in their bios, I assume they were a gay couple.