Arts & Humanities

Teaching poetry and literature in prison

Theodore Nollert, a Carolina doctoral candidate, has traveled to Granville Correctional Institution several times this year to teach American poetry and Shakespeare.

Theodore Nollert
“The students who show up are really hungry to learn,” Nollert said. “The classroom seems to be one of the places they feel most human.”

Theodore Nollert, a doctoral candidate in the English and comparative literature department, has taught American poetry and literature to an unexpected audience who has discovered unexpected connections in ages-old written works. He has traveled to Granville Correctional Institution dozens of times this year to teach a course to inmates.

“Through literature, people discover differences and similarities to the past. You’re trying to get them to pay attention to what’s there. I think that’s a useful skill in life.” Nollert, who learned about the teaching opportunity through faculty member Abigail Lee, taught his final class at the correctional institution on Sept. 21.

The course was part of the Correctional Education Program, an initiative of the Friday Center for Continuing Education. While teaching, Nollert encouraged his students to read and reflect on a range of genres, from American poetry to Shakespeare.

Recently, his students read Hamlet. “They couldn’t believe that people had ideas that resonated with them more than 400 years ago. The kinds of human concerns we find in literature are timeless and remain surprising,” Nollert said.

“The students who show up are really hungry to learn,” he said. “The classroom seems to be one of the places they feel most human.”

Learn more about Nollert’s work.