Graduate Studies


First Advisor

Shari Stenberg

Second Advisor

Stacey Waite

Third Advisor

Rachael Shah

Date of this Version



Keplinger, Gina D. On Cells: Teaching the Body (Behind Bars). MA Thesis. University of Nebraska, 2019.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Shari Stenberg. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2019

Copyright 2019 Gina D. Keplinger


This thesis is a reflective endeavor which aims to make sense of embodiment in creative writing workshops facilitated by the author—a young, white, woman from Nebraska—in carceral settings. This thesis argues that, in these spaces, it is reductive to consider positionality solely as it pertains to incarceration status. Issues of race, gender, and place bleed together in this document, just as they bleed into, and beyond, classrooms of confinement. The voices of queer theorists and composition scholars, particularly those that have previously taught incarcerated individuals, are amplified throughout this thesis. The author juxtaposes her experience with this expertise, answering calls from scholars with narrative and reflection in ways that disrupt, or queer, traditional thesis structure. Intended for use by women teaching in correctional facilities, the author hopes others find themselves in these stories, recognizing, and thinking more critically about, their own bodies and privilege, complicitness within the prison industrial complex, and pedagogical failures. This thesis, more descriptive than prescriptive, hopes to offer women instructors an authentic glimpse at teaching behind bars, so that others will be inspired to heed the author’s call and go inside.

Advisor: Shari Stenberg