Added: June 3, 2006 – Last updated: September 5, 2015


Author: Robin Joy Barrow

Title: Narratives of Outrage

Subtitle: Sexual Violence and the Victorian Novel

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Iowa

Supervisor: Florence Boos

Year: August 2003

Pages: 213pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | English History | Representations: Literature / Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy


Link: ProQuest (Restricted Access)


Author: Robin Barrow, Department of English, University of Tennessee at Knoxville


»This dissertation is the first extended investigation of the representation of sexual violence as it occurs in nineteenth-century British novels. After a preliminary examination of the rhetorical tradition in eighteenth-century literature, I argue that the structure of Victorian novels discouraged sympathy with victims of sexual assault by casting them as abject sources of entertainment and by silencing their first-person narratives. The veiled representation of rape in works like Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge creates a textual economy of pleasure that objectifies the victim and mitigates the disruptive potential of sympathy. My second and third chapters bring into focus alternate methods of enforcing silence through narrative mode and purpose: in penny bloods such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon's The Black Band, the trauma and recovery from the loss of class status overshadows that of attempted sexual assault, and Mutiny novels appropriate victims' stories into imperialist discourse. The narrative techniques of Mutiny authors like James Grant and Flora Annie Steel illustrate the problematic status of verisimilitude in rape narratives. The difficulties of establishing the "truth" of rape are especially apparent in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, the focus of my fourth chapter. I argue that modern criticism of Tess replicates the spectacularizing mode of reading solicited by the novel's structural privileging of the male gaze. In my final chapter, I interpret Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre as an alternative to Victorian rape narratives. Jane's first-person narration counteracts the spectacularization of victims and affirms a unified identity, thereby prefiguring later feminist, survivor-centered rape narratives.
Utilizing narrative theory as well as the work of cultural and psychoanalytic critics, I establish the Victorian novel's remarkable capacity for adaptation to ideological pronouncements on gender, sex, class, and Empire. My project intersects with Bakhtinian and Barthesian theories of novelistic structure, as well as Foucauldian concepts of the novel as a disciplining mechanism. To these structural and cultural considerations I add the insights provided by feminist theorists like Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and especially Judith Butler, whose writings on literary abjection have strongly influenced my work in outlining the psychology of the novelistic structure.« (Source: ProQuest)


  Acknowledgments (p. iii)
  Introduction: The Victorians, Rape, and Feminism (p. 1)
    A History of Rape (p. 6)
    Pre-Victorian Narratives of Rape (p. 15)
    Victorian Narratives of Outrage (p. 23)
    Alternative Narratives (p. 31)
  Chapter One: "A Hundred Times More Beautiful": Narrative Pleasure and Sexual Violence in Barnaby Rudge (p. 35)
    Varying Degrees of Voyeurism (p. 40)
    Hanging Offenses (p. 44)
    "A Hundred Times More Beautiful" (p. 49)
  Chapter Two: Haunting Memories: Rape, Class, and the Popular Press (p. 66)
    "Too Much a Woman": Class, Genre, and Feminine Identity (p. 85)
    Class Violations; or, the Ideological Function of Rape (p. 91)
  Chapter Three: Mutiny Novels and the "Truth" about Rape (p. 96)
    The Indian Mutiny (p. 98)
    Truth and Fiction (p. 108)
    Fate from Beginning to End (p. 126)
  Chapter Four: Tess, Hardy, and the Rhetoric of Rape (p. 130)
    Rape or Seduction? (p. 135)
    Country Matters (p. 145)
    Tess's "Fine Figure" (p. 152)
    Hardy's Blighted World (p. 157)
  Chapter Five: The "Draught and Glow" of Sexual Violence in Jane Eyre (p. 165)
    Rochester's Brutish Love (p. 166)
    Crazy Jane: Romantic Tropes of Victimization (p. 177)
    "Your Heart Shall Be the Victim": Jane's Masochism (p. 187)
    Quite a New Way of Talking (p. 193)
  Afterword (p. 195)
  Bibliography (p. 200)

Wikipedia: Mary Elizabeth Braddon; Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre; Charles Dickens: Barnaby Rudge; Thomas Hardy: Tess of the d'Urbervilles