Koneval 2012 Offence

Title Information

Author: Joni L. Koneval

Title: A "Peculiar Offence"

Subtitle: Legal, Popular, and Gendered Perceptions of Rape in the Early American Republic, 1790 – 1850

Thesis: M.A. Thesis, Youngstown State University

Year: May 2012

Pages: v + 94pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 18th Century, 19th Century | U.S. History | Prosecution: Laws; Representations: Literature, Press

Full Text

Link: OhioLINK [Free Access]

Additional Information


»Rape was a constant topic in the Early Republic, whether in legal cases, factual newspaper articles, or fictional novels. This thesis examines the legal, popular, and gendered perceptions of rape in the Early American Republic (1790-1850) and demonstrates how the period's legal and social systems constantly influenced one another's conception of rape. Moving beyond the conclusions of previous scholars, this thesis argues that conflicting variations of rape existed in the Early Republic and that rape in this historical context cannot be simply defined as the male population's exercise of patriarchal power over the female population.
Chapter one analyzes rape from a legal perspective and examines cases of rape and attempted rape and the laws and statutes that governed them. It argues that the prosecution of rape in the Early Republic was extraordinarily arbitrary and greatly influenced by the popular perception of rape and sexual behavior. Chapter two examines from a social and cultural perspective and analyzes popular representations and perceptions of rape and sex in novels and newspapers. It argues that the legal and popular perceptions of rape in the Early Republic were more heavily rooted in fiction than in fact, creating a rape narrative that permeated rape prosecutions. Finally, chapter three addresses the role of gender and power in the legal and popular representations of rape in the Early Republic. It argues that in the process of being further victimized, Early Republic rape victims exercised agency through the legal and social systems' perceptions and expectations of them.« [Source: Thesis]


  Abstract (p. iv)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter 1: The "Peculiar Offence of Rape": Rape Law in the Early Republic (p. 14)
  Chapter 2: Mixed Messages: Sexuality and Rape in Early Republic Culture (p. 38)
  Chapter 3: Battle of the Sexes: Power, Gender, and Rape in the Early Republic (p. 68)
  Conclusion (p. 87)
  Bibliography (p. 89)
    Primary Sources (p. 89)
      Court Cases (p. 89)
      Newspapers (p. 90)
      Books and Articles (p. 90)
    Secondary Sources (p. 91)

Added: March 8, 2014 | Last updated: March 8, 2014