Added: October 25, 2008 – Last updated: July 2, 2016


Author: Barbara Zecchi

Title: The Representation of Rape and the Rape of Representation

Subtitle: Sexual/Textual Violence in Italy and Spain

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of California at Los Angeles

Advisor: Lucia Re

Year: 1998

Pages: xii + 250 leaves

OCLC Number: 41135750 – Find a Library: WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Medieval History: 14th Century, 15th Century | European History: Italian History, Spanish History | Representations: Literary Texts / 14th-Century Literature, 15th-Century Literature


Link: ProQuest (Restricted Access)


Author: Barbara Zecchi, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, University of MassachusettsAuthor's Personal Website,

Abstract: »In my dissertation, I study the relationship between rape and writing. There are two dimensions to this issue that I explore: (1) the relationship between different discursive strategies that erase or inscribe rape in literature (the representation of sexual violence) in relation to the historical evolution of the conception of female sexuality; and (2) the implications of rape for the conception of language and literature (the violence of representation). I concentrate on key periods of the history of Spanish and Italian literatures in which sexual violence is central either in the light its obsessive presence (such is the case with modernism), or, paradoxically, for an equally obsessive elision (as in courtly love and romanticism). Both courtly love and romanticism manifest a similar idealization of women which represents a process of "desexualizing" women (through the creation of Guido Guinizelli's and Francisco Imperial's angelic women) that parallels a progressive "masculinization" of the vernacular language (defined as a passage "dalla tetta della madre alla legge del padre" by Dante in the De vulgari, or as the affirmation of "la lengua del Imperio" by Nebrija, in his Gramática). Guinizzelli's "donna angelicata" and Imperial's Stella Diana become the "angel of the house" in Romanticism. Nevertheless, in this context, instead of the masculinization of language we will witness what Susan Kirkpatrick and Ann Mellor call "a feminization of culture" and a rebellion against those same rules that Dante and Nebrija imposed through their "literary grammars." Finally, modernism's subversive discourse and its obsession with virility shape an aesthetics in which both woman and writing embody "love" through an act of rape. While producing a phantasmagoric imagery of sexual violence, modernist literature "rapes" or does violence to the feminine maternal body of the readable classic text, that must be--according to Roland Barthes--"maltreated and silenced." Raping and effacing the powerful feminine pregnant body--the Other that engenders the One, the text that engenders meaning--, the majority of texts by men will address the issue of the violent deformation of the nineteenth-century human subject. On the other hand, women writers will no longer experience the act of grabbing a pen as the logical affirmation of their (sentimental) private authority, as happened in the nineteenth century, but rather as the transgressive attempt to shape the re-formation of their own subjectivity.« (Source: ProQuest)


  Acknowledgments (p. vi)
  Vita (p. viii)
  Abstract (p. xi)
  Introduction (p. 1)
    1. Sexual Violence (p. 4)
    2. Textual Violence (p. 10)
  Chapter 1. Premodern Sexual/Textual Violence (p. 15)
  I. From Sexual Violence to the Violence of Desexualization (p. 15)
    1. The Threat of Sexual Violence (p. 18)
    2. The Violence of Desexualization: the Loss of the Body (p. 31)
    3. Loss of Voice: Florencia Pinar and Hysteria (p. 39)
  II. The Rape of Language (p. 45)
    1. Nebrija and the Erection of Vernacular Language (p. 45)
    2. "Dalla tetta della madre alla legge del padre:" Dante's Masculinization of the Female Body (p. 50)
    3. Masculinization through Grammar: Dante's De vulgari and Nebrija's La gramática (p. 58)
  Chapter 2. The Romantization of Sexual/Textual Violence (p. 65)
  I. The Seduction of the Angel (p. 65)
    1. Babelic Violence (p. 65)
    2. Euphemistic Violence (p. 71)
  II. The Angels Speak (p. 89)
    1. Voicing Sexual Desire (p. 93)
    2. The Violence of Compulsory Heterosexuality (p. 109)
    3. Denouncing Sexual Violence (p. 119)
    4. The Violence of Seduction (p. 125)
  III. Towards Virility (p. 130)
    1. Searching a Masculine Language (p. 130)
    2. The Masculinization of the Novel (p. 145)
  Chapter 3. The Modernization of Sexual/Textual Violence (p. 153)
  I. The Rape of the Body (p. 153)
    1. Virgins and Femmes Fatales (p. 158)
    2. Don Juan in the Domestic Sphere (p. 175)
    3. Rape and Aphasia: How to Colonize and Silence the Femme Fatale (p. 181)
  II. The Rape of the Mother (p. 193)
    1. The Rape of the Phallic Mother (p. 193)
    2. "L'operazione della metafora", or the Fantasy of Self-fathering (p. 197)
    3. From the semiotic to the symbolic mother (p. 205)
  III. The Rape of Literature (p. 219)
    1. Modernism Engendered in Sexual Violence (p. 219)
    2. Modernism En-gendered (p. 223)
  Bibliography (p. 232)

Wikipedia: History of Europe: History of Italy, History of Spain | Literature: Italian literature, Spanish literature