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February 08, 2007


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Women Writing Rape:
Literary and Theoretical Narratives of Sexual Violence

A Half-Day Symposium at the University of Warwick ~ Saturday 28th April 2007

Funded and Organised by the Feminist &Women’s Studies Association (FWSA)
Featuring: Dr. Ananya Jahanara Kabir, University of Leeds

This symposium proposes to bring together academics with an interest in feminism and gender studies across a variety of discourses, including Literary Studies, History, Sociology, Legal Studies, and Creative Writing. The central aim is to consider how rape is theorised in contemporary feminism. The symposium will encourage dialogue between literary narratives of rape and theoretical aspects of feminist debates about sexual violence.

In her 2002 article, ‘Toward a New Feminist Theory of Rape’, Corinne M. Mardorossian argues that for British and American feminisms, ‘[r]ape has become academia’s undertheorized and apparently untheorizable issue’. Mardorossian asks why there is such ‘stagnation in the theorizing of sexual violence precisely at a time when the body is so high on the feminist scholars’ list of priorities’ and she seeks to understand this phenomenon. Mardorossian demands an alternative feminist theory that addresses these problems i.e. that ‘does not accept existing premises and established “truths” but problematizes them by asking alternative questions and offering different conceptions’. However, some feminists have criticised Mardorossian’s suggestions for a solution at the end of her article, because they are rooted in challenging representations rather than in detailed sociological research. Mardorossian demands that feminists ‘resist the facile opposition between passivity and agency’. She concludes that ultimately feminists must ‘theorize and reconceptualize the meanings of categories such as “victim” and “experience” rather than merely criticize their use’.

Despite the claim that feminism has failed to re-theorise rape, this symposium aims to show that the kind of subversive representational deconstruction demanded by Mardorossian is already being performed in contemporary literary texts that deal with sexual violence. We are particularly interested in papers that deal with subversive literary texts that perform one of the following strategies:
• rethinking categories such as “victim” and “experience” in relation to rape narratives;
• subverting the notion of a “gender script”;
• undermining active/passive binaries;
• questioning the separation of rape from an experiential perspective;
• reasserting the importance of women’s experience;
• recognising relations of power and panopticism in representations of rape;
• undermining media representations of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ victims.
Some writers that might make interesting case studies are novelists like Yvonne Vera, J.M. Coetzee and Toni Morrison, or poets like Selima Hill, Pascale Petit and Sharon Olds.

The symposium will include a keynote speech by Dr. Ananya Jahanara Kabir on the topic of how rape is represented in contemporary South Asia. There will also be a creative writing workshop for delegates that provides ways into rethinking categories such as ‘active’, ‘passive’ and ‘victim’. Negotiations are being made for the proceedings to be published.

Deadline for Abstracts: 21st of March 2007
Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words for 15 – 20 minute papers. Please send by e-mail (in the e-mail body or by attached Word document) to Sorcha Gunne (


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