Penology and literature have often been intertwined. Nowhere is this intersection richer than in the literature of nineteenth-century France, where a fascination with punishment and social control was evident in many different genres. When galleys became obsolete in the middle of the eighteenth century, galley slavery was replaced by a system of mostly terrestrial, semi-maritime penal servitude: penal labor for the new age. The first and most iconic of these institutions (called bagnes) was the Bagne of Toulon, a carceral setting that appears not only in classic novels by writers such as Hugo, Balzac, and Dumas, but also in popular fiction dealing with crime and adventure, boulevard plays, documentary texts written in a vein of exploitative sensationalism, memoirs by former prisoners, and treatises by penal reformers. This paper examines the reasons that the bagnes portuaires held such a significant place in the nineteenth-century imagination by envisioning travaux forcés as a as a spectacle or a play: meant to be watched, with its own script, stage, costumes and stock characters. It is unsurprising that the "audience" would engage with this spectacle, creating a discourse about repression, freedom, redemption and human nature.



© Copyright is owned by author of this document