For our first seminar of the term we will be discussing American novelist Colson Whitehead’s most recent novel, The Nickel Boys (2019).

The discussion will be led by Sarah Waltcher (St Hilda's), a DPhil student in the English Faculty, and Roxana Willis, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Criminology and JRF at University College, with Michelle Kelly (English) as Chair.

Whitehead's novel is based around the experiences of two boys sentenced to a reform school, and unfolds against the backdrop of the racial discrimination of the Jim Crow era as well as the emerging Civil Rights movement. Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, the novel raises fascinating questions about regimes of punishment and reform in the criminal justice system, the racialised logic of mass incarceration, and the relationship between fiction and historical events. 

All are welcome to join us for what promises to be a lively discussion of a novel by one of the leading contemporary US writers. A sandwich lunch will be served from 12.30.