June 17, 2024 · University of Virginia

Writing the victim: Rescripting rape in contemporary American fiction since 1970.

Summary: "My first two chapters demonstrate how the new understanding of the victim's psyche in rape fiction is derived from two main sources: the literature of the anti-rape movement and autobiographical accounts of sexual assault. My next three chapters describe the rhetorical and narratological strategies---realism, postmodernism, and trauma writing---used to represent the experience of sexual assault in these works. Chapter Three demonstrates how the first rape novels, written in the 1970s, demand that rape be understood as the violation of a woman's person. This rescripting of rape as a figure of violence and disempowerment is achieved through the unflinchingly realistic portrayal of sexual violence on the page. My fourth chapter identifies the central prerogative of rape fiction of the 1980s: to underscore the legitimacy of the traumatic experience by providing in-depth accounts of the physical and psychological repercussions of the assault. My final chapter explains the shift away from realist representations of sexual assault to the more oblique and fractured depictions offered in the rape novels of the 1990s. Ultimately, my dissertation offers a radical reconsideration of the late 20th century American novel, first by underscoring the importance of women's activism upon its form and content, and secondly, by offering the rape novel as evidence for the critical necessity of reading across ethnic literary traditions."
Robin Elizabeth Field
University of Virginia
Caroline Rody
Department of English
Date Added November 5, 2016
Date Modifed October 17, 2017
Collection UVA scholarship on sexual violence, 1974-

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