Added: July 6, 2013 – Last updated: August 1, 2015


Author: Trisha A. Henderson

Title: Sexual violence against women of color

Subtitle: Achieving agency through community voice, purposeful silence, and responsible literary representations

Thesis: M.A. Thesis, Iowa State University (Advisor: Brianna Burke)

Year: 2013

Pages: iii + 105pp.

OCLC Number: 880391594 – Find a Library: WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century | U.S. History | Representations: Literature Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Frances Washburn, Karen Tei Yamashita


Link: Digital Repository @ Iowa State University (Free Access)


Abstract: »Overall, my goal in creating this project is to prompt awareness to the issue of sexual violence against women in general; however, I want to bring attention to assault in communities of color, in particular. Women of color are devalued, and sexual violence against multicultural women is often underreported and not taken seriously enough. This thesis consists of three chapters, each one centered on sexual violence against women of color in contemporary American fiction. In Chapter 1, I contrast the use of voice in Harriet Prescott Spofford's "Circumstance" (1860) and Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987), highlighting how women of color often rely on a community voice in order to achieve agency after trauma. This chapter also includes an ecofeminist lens, drawing a connection between women's relationship to the natural environment in achieving a voice of agency. Spofford's short story, the only noncontemporary text, features a white protagonist, so it offers an ideal contrast to Morrison's novel featuring African American experiences, as the authors handle both voice and race in opposition to each other. In Chapter 2, I continue to analyze Beloved, but I look at it alongside Frances Washburn's Elsie's Business (2006) in order to point out how silence can be a legitimate avenue from which to acquire agency. This chapter also focuses on the issue of sexual violence against Native women, which is a huge, and often unrecognized, problem in Indigenous communities. In Chapter 3, I analyze the spectator gaze and objectification versus nonobjectification of survivors of sexual violence in Karen Tei Yamashita's Tropic of Orange (1997) and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003). I argue these two authors successfully represent sexual violence in order to provide a greater awareness and understanding among audience members. Yamashita and Atwood project a sense of activism in their writing, and although they approach the representations in opposing ways, they exhibit a deliberate craft and intention. In the end, I hope this thesis makes others more aware of the precautions and considerations that need to be taken in representing sexual violence in any mode of text.« (Source: Digital Repository @ Iowa State University)


  Acknowledgements (p. iii)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter 1. The Role of Race and Place in Establishing a Communal or Solitary Voice of Agency in Morrisons's Beloved and Spofford's “Circumstance” (p. 8)
    Women of color and communal voices of agency (p. 9)
    Whiteness and solitary voices of agency (p. 23)
    Agency and song in the natural world (p. 32)
  Chapter 2. The Powerful Presence of the Unspoke: Silence and Alternative Discourses in Beloved and Elsie's Business (p. 39)
    Intergenerational trauma: Slavery, genocide, and sexual violence (p. 42)
    Oppressive silence versus alternative discourses of agency (p. 47)
    Different ways of speaking (p. 51)
    Purposeful silence (p. 58)
    Trauma and the question of futurity (p. 67)
  Chapter 3. Opposing Navigations of the Spectator Gaze: Activisim and Responsibility in Tropic of Orange and Oryx and Crake (p. 70)
    Multicultural identities and activism (p. 72)
    Alternatives to navigating the scopophilic gaze (p. 73)
    Putting trauma into textual perspective (p. 76)
  Conclusion (p. 94)
  Works Cited (p. 101)

Wikipedia: Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake; Toni Morrison: Beloved (novel); Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford; Circumstance (short story); Karen Tei Yamashita: Tropic of Orange