Added: March 12, 2001 – Last updated: August 1, 2015


Author: Pamela E. Barnett

Title: The Language of Rape

Subtitle: Sexual Violence in Novels by Faulkner, Naylor and Morrison

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, Emory University (Advisor: Trudier Harris)

Year: 1996

Pages: 234pp.

OCLC Number: 39050522 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | U.S. History | Representations: Literature / William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor


Link: ProQuest (Restricted Access)


Author: Pamela E. Barnett, College of Arts & Sciences, Trinity Washington University


»This study argues that dominant cultural narratives about rape are expressed in a "language of rape" which produces and reproduces cultural assumptions about sex, gender, desire and race, and which contributes toward both the representation and creation of sexually-differentiated and racialized bodies. This language and its effects are intelligible through cultural prohibitions against homosexuality and interracial sex. The first chapter examines the assumptions and functions of this language and considers how the dominant visual system governing erotic looking and watching collaborates with this language in the cultural work of subject-making.
Following chapters discuss representations of rape in Sanctuary (1931) by William Faulkner, The Women of Brewster Place (1980) by Gloria Naylor, and Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison. Sanctuary is a novel which produces and reproduces the language of rape's naturalizing myths about male and female bodies. The Women of Brewster Place, which represents a lesbian victim, exposes the role of heterosexuality in the naturalization of male and female bodies, yet, ultimately reifies gendered notions of rape and of sexed bodies. The novel also, however, challenges the dominant language of rape, which assumes white female victims, by telling the stories of raped black women. In Beloved, Morrison further demonstrates that this language masks the suffering of victims who fall outside the cultural assumptions which structure this dominant language--namely men and black Americans. The study argues that the language of rape is insufficient for representing the varying systems of power which rape both indicates and serves.« (Source: ProQuest)


  Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter One:
The Language of Rape (p. 14)
  Chapter Two:
"He was watching me!": Rape and the Threatening Gaze in Sanctuary (p. 69)
  Chapter Three:
Rape as Heterosexual Imposition, Rape as White 'Privilege' in The Women of Brewster Place (p. 120)
  Chapter Four:
"Like an unpleasant dream during a troubling sleep": The Succubus and Sexual Attack in Beloved (p. 166)
Toward Languages of Rape (p. 214)
  Bibliography (p. 223)

Wikipedia: William Faulkner: Sanctuary (Faulkner novel); Toni Morrison: Beloved (novel); Gloria Naylor: The Women of Brewster Place (novel)