This article examines the spectacular representation of confinement in early medieval English sculpture in the context of poems, sermons, and translations. By identifying a series of features that early medieval spectators would have paid special attention to, it shows that sculptors used imprisoned and fugitive figures to craft a discourse about power in the absence of both a strong state and a regime of punitive incarceration. Compelling pictures of prisoners and verbal images of captivity flourished as a kind of carceral imaginary in the public landscape before the carceral state’s rise, as well as licensing forms of community policing in which early medieval subjects were required to participate. As such, these sculptures model a relationship between art and coercive power predicated on historically specific expectations about sculpture’s capacity to instruct and surveil.

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