Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Joan Coldwell




Women's experiences of sexual violence have long been excluded from the public' realm by a patriarchal code of silence which facilitates the very violence which it publicly ignores. Recently, Canadian women writers such as Karen Augustine, Beatrice Culleton, Susan Glickman, Beth Goobie, Joy Kogawa, and Libby Scheier have begun the process of shattering the silence, as they attempt, through their literature, to describe, define and recover from the violence perpetrated against women. It is essential for criticism like this thesis to join with the literature in the feminist project of identifying, discussing, and, ultimately, undercutting the unified suppressing forces of literary, sexual and political hierarchies -- for to leave the literature unstudied only reinforces the misrepresentations and attitudes which it opposes. This thesis, through chapters which investigate theoretical, technical, racial and sexual issues, illuminates the emerging feminist discourse on sexual violence. The Canadian women writers studied in this paper write from various feminist theoretical foundations, employ a fresh style and tone, use metaphors to elucidate their experiences, grapple with the trap of the confessional structure, follow the écriture féminine style to "write the raped body," confront the racist and heterosexist elements of sexual assault, and struggle to avoid being subsumed back into the dominant patriarchal discourse. In writing about sexual violence, these women bravely disobey the patriarchal edicts of silence and, through this challenge, threaten the continuation of the code which they defy.

McMaster University Library

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