“There are secrets that are kept from the public and then there are ‘public secrets’

In the work “Public Secrets” by Sharon Daniel and Erik Loyer, the secrets of the California State Prison are revealed through a compilation of statements from those currently imprisoned. The work begins with an intro defining a ‘public secret’ as a secret that is known but the public pretends to be oblivious to, in this case, the truth behind the state prison system.

The work is broken into sections, each about a different part of life in the prison. When viewing statements about the inside, one reads about what life was like inside the prison walls. Such a life is described as miserable, unfair, and full of mistreatment. One inmate asks

 referring to a fellow inmate that died waiting for treatment with the co-pay required by the prison health staff in her hand. This situation represents only a fraction of the instances of mistreatment that occur in the prison.



These situations are depicted as quotes from various inmates about their experiences in the jail. There are numerous quotes on each page and they can be clicked on to hear the inmate themselves making the statement. Having the ability to hear the inmate themselves makes the statements seem that much more real. This ability is one unique to electronic literature and if the work was simply a bunch of quotes on a piece of paper, it would be much less significant in its meaning. Also, the way in which the work is organized, into separate boxes

    with strict separation between the quotes mimics the way the prison is run — clear cut and strict, no overlapping or blending of inmates and daily activities. Again, this illustrated separation is something that works only for electronic literature and would have no meaning in a normal literary text. As with previous works I have read, the importance of electronic literature is apparent in its unique capabilities that make this work the creative piece that it is.


  1 comment for ““There are secrets that are kept from the public and then there are ‘public secrets’

  1. Sarah Park
    February 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

    I actually work my checkpoint on “Public Secrets” as well (link here: http://elit.umwblogs.org/2012/02/22/cause-two-can-keep-a-secret-if-one-of-them-is-dead-public-secrets/), and I also thought that adding in the audio clips of the interviews was a very effective technique. It contributed to the overall tone of the women in the prison: of despair, hopelessness, apathy.

    But I really found the whole “Inside/Outside,” “Bare life/Human life,” binary oppositions really confusing though… Did you understand what the meaning of the tabs was?

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