Writing the Survivor

BookWriting the Survivor

Writing the Survivor

The Rape Novel in Late Twentieth-Century American Fiction

Clemson University Press


July 15th, 2020



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Writing the Survivor: The Rape Novel in Late Twentieth-Century American Fiction identifies a new genre of American fiction, the rape novel, that recenters narratives of sexual violence on the survivors of violence and abuse, rather than the perpetrators. The rape novel arose during the women’s liberation movement as women writers collectively challenged the traditional erasure of female subjectivity and agency found in earlier representations of sexual violence in American fiction. The rape novel not only foregrounds survivors and their stories in a textual centering that affirms their dignity and self-worth, but also develops new narratological strategies for portraying violent, disturbing subject matter. In bringing together many key women’s texts of the last decades of the 20th century, the rape novel demonstrates the centrality of sexual assault to women’s fiction of this era. The rape novels of the 21st century continue the political activism inherent in the genre—educating readers, offering community to survivors, and encouraging social activism—as the stories of male survivors are increasingly told. A radical reconsideration of late twentieth-century American novels, Writing the Survivor underscores the importance of women’s activism upon the novel’s form and content and reveals the portrayal of rape as rape to be an interethnic imperative.

‘In short, Field’s book adds a comprehensive look at how and why the evolution of rape depictions in literature parallels American responses toward such real-life claims. Readers interested in how American literature helped shape and define rape culture, rape consciousness, and the ever-growing movement for racial and gender equity—particularly regarding one’s sexuality and the need for consent—will gain much from this book.’
Jerrica Jordan, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature

'Writing the Survivor connects and relates the harrowing experiences of rape across color, creed, class, ethnicity, and gender to give voice to the violated and engage in activism through writing. [...] Through her inclusive and pluralistic study of rape in American literature, Field interrogates American society at large, which, although aware of many of the crimes at the heart of this study, has failed to eradicate them. The book’s investigation of the most popular rape novels from 1970s to the twenty-first century is timely and relevant, particularly in the context of the current #MeToo movement across the globe.'Goutam Karmakar, MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States


Author Information

Robin E. Field is Professor of English at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She is co-editor of Transforming Diaspora: Communities beyond National Boundaries (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011) and has authored articles and book chapters on Jhumpa Lahiri, Sandra Cisneros, Alice Walker, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, and Ayad Akhtar. Her research interests include gender, trauma, contemporary literature, and postcolonial studies. She is the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and teaching at King’s College and the Managing Editor of the journal South Asian Review.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: Rethinking Rape in the American Cultural and Literary Landscape9
1. Rape Consciousness: From Activism to Text39
2. Breaking Silence, Telling Tales: Writing Rape in Novels of the 1970s77
3. “The Victim Demands Narrative”: Writing the Perspective of the Rape Victim-Survivor in the Long 1980s117
4. Tracing Trauma in Rape Fiction of the Long 1990s157
5. Writing the Male Rape Survivor: The Rape Novel in the Twenty-First Century197