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The Politics of the Strong Trope: Rape and the Feminist Debate in the United States

Sabine Sielke
Amerikastudien / American Studies
Vol. 49, No. 3, Gewalt in den USA der 1960er und 1970er Jahre (2004), pp. 367-384
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41158073
Page Count: 18
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The Politics of the Strong Trope: Rape and the Feminist Debate in the United States
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Abstract

Taking off from the proliferation of feminist discourse on rape since 1970, this essay examines how American culture talks about sexual violence and explains why, in the latter twentieth century, rape achieved such significance as a trope of power relations. Tracing the evolution of a specifically American rhetoric of rape back to the late eighteenth century, I explore the cultural work that this rhetoric has performed and argue that the representation of rape has been a major force in the cultural construction of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, class, and, indeed, national identity. Provoked in part by contemporary feminist criticism, my work also challenges feminist positions on sexual violence by interrogating them as part of the history in which rape has been a convenient and conventional albeit troubling trope for other concerns and conflicts.

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