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Publication Date

Summer 2018

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English and Comparative Literature


Ryan Skinnell


abuse, assault, contemporary, rape, rhetoric, sex

Subject Areas

English literature


The argument that literature is a foundational construct for today’s rape culture extends far beyond the first feminist wave; however, recent commentary examines the changing role of contemporary fiction’s participation in rape culture with the hope that a closer examination of contemporary works will lend itself to a better understanding of the greater issue. The study of contemporary works reveals that the presence of rape in literature has evolved from one that obscures rape in favor of the supposed positive societal outcomes to one that places rape at the center of the novel and suggests that this change correlates with the palpable rise in social critiques regarding rape culture. Rather than reduce rape to a tool for the purposes of promoting societal improvements, plot or character development, twenty-first century novels detail the rape and the victim’s struggle. Through this exploration of the content and language used in relation to the violation, there appears a significant change in Western literature and its employment of rape. While the successes, or resulting societal changes, works of art, laws, etc., for which victims are raped have changed from influencing the founding of entire civilizations to jeopardizing a community or an individual’s reputation, the inclination to silence victims remains the same; however, in these twenty-first century rape narratives, the repressed representation of rape in literature is challenged.