Added: March 4, 2017 – Last updated: March 4, 2017


Author: Zoë Brigley Thompson

Title: Beyond Symbolic Rape

Subtitle: The Insidious Trauma of Conquest in Marguerite Duras’s The Lover and Eileen Chang’s “Lust, Caution”

Journal: Feminist Formations

Volume: 28

Issue: 3

Year: Winter 2016

Pages: 1-26

ISSN: 2151-7363 – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 2151-7371 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century, 21st Century | Asian History: Chinese History, Japanese History; European History: French History | Representations: Films / The Lover, Lust, Caution; Representations: Literary Texts / Eileen Chang, Marguerite Duras


Link: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)


Author: Zoë Brigley Thompson, Department of English, Ohio State UniversityAuthor's Personal Website,

Abstract: »This article contrasts two visions of trauma: a symbolic imaginary on film where women’s violated bodies stand in for philosophical ideas about sex, violence, and politics; and a more complex literary imaginary using what Ann Cvetkovich calls an “archive of trauma.” The starting point for discussion is troubling representations of women on film; The Lover (1992, dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud) and Lust, Caution (2007, dir. Ang Lee) both portray their heroines falling in love with their abusers, men whose shame and vulnerability are expressed through a symbolic rape. Rather than dwelling on this dubious aspect of the films, the main discussion returns to the more nuanced view of trauma in the source texts: The Lover (1984) by Marguerite Duras (1914–1996) and “Lust, Caution” (1979) by Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing) (1920–1995), neither of which include sexual violence in an obvious way. Duras’s traumatic portrait of French colonialism and Chang’s sinister portrayal of the Japanese occupation of Shanghai refuse symbolic rape as shorthand for conquest. Instead, these stories present an archive of trauma through a series of objects that represent emotional value, and provoke affective responses. Duras and Chang lament what Cvetkovich labels “insidious” or everyday trauma—the impossible histories—carried by women as a result of colonialism and war.« (Source: Feminist Formations)


  Symbolic Rape on Film (p. 6)
  Rape On-Screen in The Lover (p. 7)
  Rape Onscreen in Lust, Caution (p. 9)
  Beyoond the Symbolic Rape (p. 12)
  Insidious Trauma in The Lover (p. 13)
  Insidious Trauma in “Lust, Caution” (p. 19)
  The Power of the Archive (p. 23)
  Acknowledgments (p. 24)
  References (p. 24)

Wikipedia: History of Asia: History of China, History of Japan | History of Europe: History of France | Film: American films / Lust, Caution | Film: French films / The Lover (film) | Literature: Chinese literature | Literature: French literature / 20th-century French literature | 20th-century Chinese writers: Eileen Chang / Lust, Caution (novella) | 20th-century French writers: Marguerite Duras / The Lover (Duras novel)