Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


A hypothetical prison proposed by Jeremy Bentham, having circular tiers of cells surrounding a central observation tower.

[Earlier, a peepshow device used to exhibit pictures : pan- + Greek optikon, neuter of optikos, optic; see optic.]


1. a round prison in which all cells are visible from the centre point
2. archaic an optical instrument enabling wide views of cities
3. archaic an exhibition room


(pænˈɒp tɪˌkɒn)

a building, as a prison or library, so arranged that all parts of the interior are visible from a single point.
[1760–70; pan- + Greek optikón sight, seeing (neuter of optikós; see optic)]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.panopticon - an area where everything is visible
area - a part of a structure having some specific characteristic or function; "the spacious cooking area provided plenty of room for servants"
saleroom, salesroom, showroom - an area where merchandise (such as cars) can be displayed; "in Britain a showroom is called a salesroom"
2.panopticon - a circular prison with cells distributed around a central surveillance station; proposed by Jeremy Bentham in 1791
prison, prison house - a correctional institution where persons are confined while on trial or for punishment
References in periodicals archive ?
This monopoly, together with the unparalleled facility of inspection afforded by the panopticon, would ensure the contractor his profit.
Instead, said Foucault, the rise of the modern prison - exemplified by Jeremy Bentham's "panopticon," a circular structure in which observation-tower guards could see into all cells - marked a quantum leap in oppression.
Recently, in the wake of Foucault, a further trope has been added to this series: the panopticon and its derivatives--panopticism, panoptic vision, panoptical narration.
Although it appears only briefly, the novel's dominant image is the panopticon. It appears as the women's prison created by the Countess P.
In a perverse realization of the old argument that the state would whither away once communism had been created (an argument usually employed by apologists for the construction of a panopticon state) our Conservative Party has withered away with the realization of a market-dominated state.
The solution, through the social segregation of the police officer from the community, through his close supervision by senior officers, and through the pervasive time discipline of the beat combined, as in Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, to act as a constraint over both police and policed.
He made his stage debut on the iconic Panopticon Stage in the city centre.
Here it seems prudent to explicitly highlight the distinction between Foucault's penal panopticon and Truman's primarily performative one.
His aim, however, is to restore complexity and variability to forms of vision, and to rescue our understanding of these issues from what he sees as the tyranny - or at the very least the over-simplification - of the abstractions of the panopticon and the flaneur.
Miller, John Bender, and Mark Seltzer have linked narrative structures to penal structures and the idea of Bentham's Panopticon, arguing that "omniscient" narration reproduces the tyrannical, authoritarian gaze of a watchful prison guard.
When the boys would grow old enough, Jullien imagined their starting to produce such diaries on behalf of the other boys in their cohort, thus becoming part of the panopticon. Lejeune is as interested in the process of keeping a diary as be is in the "residue" of this process, the diary itself.
This paper examines the search for identity and the obstacles to it through the framework of the Panopticon and the Other that Michel Foucault sets forth in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.