Writing about rape: law, criticism, and drama, from Shakespeare’s Titus to The Lawes Resolutions

Barker, Helen Margaret (2015). Writing about rape: law, criticism, and drama, from Shakespeare’s Titus to The Lawes Resolutions. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Abstract

1970s and 1980s feminist writing about rape in relation to early modern legal practice and to its representation in literary works established a paradigm of misogyny and female victimhood that has remained largely unchallenged. Two works in particular have become almost ubiquitous in modern criticism: a 1983 paper by Nazife Bashar, and the 1632 treatise, \(The\) \(Lawes\) \(Resolutions\) \(of\) \(Womens\) \(Rights\). But a scrutiny of source material revealed factual error and misreading of early modern law and commentary in Bashar’s piece. Additionally, \(The\) \(Lawes\) \(Resolutions\) is unreliable in its account of statute law, while its legal credentials are unclear. Mistaken assumptions arising from both sources have been perpetuated and compounded in modern criticism, and established as commonplace. The resulting critical paradigm constrains the scope for further investigation.
The thesis attempts to set the undeniably subordinate status of women in a fuller context than that of oppositional gender politics. It reviews early modern statute law, the background to \(The\) \(Lawes\) \(Resolutions\), Bashar’s essay and its influence on subsequent criticism, the cultural context that established women’s secondary status and reinforced their vulnerability to rape, and the part of neoclassicism in the dynamic. Later chapters turn to early modern – particularly Jacobean – drama. The thesis suggests that in a fuller context of complexity and contradiction there is potential for wider and more interesting approaches to rape in literature than ideological assumptions prevalent in criticism over the past thirty years have allowed.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Supervisor(s):
Supervisor(s)EmailORCID
McLuskie, KathleenUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/6337

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