Re-presenting narratives of rape: examining constructions of the victim, voice and feminism under rape law reform

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McCaffree-Wallace, Andrea
Brooks, Christopher K.
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The research and critical readings in this study attempt to comment on changing constructions of the victim, voice and consent in popular representations of rape post rape law reform. The study draws on a wealth of research in film, gender studies, literature, the law and sociology pointing to changing representations and mindsets after rape law reform and feminism. The early feminist emphasis on women’s stories and the telling of victim’s narratives has led to a cultural climate which naturalizes the telling of the victim’s story and justifies representations of "real narratives." This study seeks to examine the impact new emphasis has had on cultural representations of rape and the extent to which this emphasis reflects or influences issues of consent post the rape law reform. Chapter 1 examines the "silence" surrounding rape in popular representations before rape law reform and the effect such silence had on narrative structures. Chapter 2 begins with an overview of consent and victim's narratives post rape law reform and continues by completing close readings of two films key to representations of feminism and rape law reform in popular culture: The Accused and Thelma & Louise. The readings closely analyze the role victims' narration of rape plays in the structure and progression of each film. It is concluded that rape is both a complicated and saturated concept in popular culture. Also, there is a stark difference between rape narratives inside and outside the law: victims outside the law resist the re-telling of their stories on a number of levels or completely, while narratives inside the law are generally structured to emphasize and naturalize the victim's retelling while replicating the legal burden on the victim's story. This study also concludes that the majority of rape narratives are rendered apolitical because they generally advocate listening to or identifying with the victim's narrative as the solution to rape within the narrative.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English.
Wichita State University
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