This research aims to investigate the space of prison in Chinese literature: its multiple representations in various authors' writings and its relation to the actual experience of imprisonment.

I will start from the very evolution of punishment and prison in China (from laogai and laojiao to present-day jails) and I will then analyze the representation of prisons in former inmates' writings, and especially in the works of poet Liao Yiwu. From the authors' point of view, the very act of writing is a testimony of survival, which bears shame and responsibility at the same time.

How different are the representations of prison in Chinese contemporary writing? How does Liao Yiwu depict (and perhaps symbolize) prison? Is there any pedagogical intent?

In a 2011 interview, when speaking about his memoir For a song and a hundred songs, he explained that it was the story of how he turned from a poet into a witness of history. But what kind of witness is Liao?

How can physical spaces associated with pain, fear and death, eventually become narrative spaces of survival and witnessing?

Read more about Serena De Marchi here.