Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The discursive limits of "carnal knowledge": Re-reading rape in Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Restoration drama
by Benitez, Michael Anthony, M.A., California State University, Long Beach, 2015, 194; 1598621
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis, by analyzing how rape is treated in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (1592-3), Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s The Changeling (1622), and Aphra Behn’s The Rover (1677), details how the early modern English theater frequently dramatizes the period’s problematic understanding of rape. These texts reveal the social and legal illegibility of rape, illuminating just how deeply ambivalent and inconsistent patriarchy is toward female sexuality. Both using and departing from a feminist critical tradition that emphasized rape as patriarchy’s sexual entrapment of women, my readings of the period’s legal treatises and other documents call attention to the ambiguity of how rape is defined in early modern England. As represented in these three plays, male rapists exploit the period’s paradoxical views of female sexual consent, thus complicating how raped women negotiate their social and legal status. The process of disclosing her violation ultimately places a raped woman in an untenable position.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kermode, Lloyd
Commitee: Mello, Barbara, Van Elk, Martine
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: English
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 55/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Behavioral psychology, Womens studies, Theater
Keywords: Early modern, Rape, The changeling, The rover, Titus andronicus
Publication Number: 1598621
ISBN: 9781339038049
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