Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: L-Z - Vol. 2

By Jean-Charles Seigneuret | Go to book overview

R

RAPE

Rape, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the act of carrying away a person, especially a woman, by force; the violation or ravishing of a woman. In this sense, the word "rape" implies the use of force against a woman's will. However, problems relating to whether abduction or seduction is a kind of rape, whether rape is a crime, and whether woman is responsible for rape remain the focus. of scholarly discussion.

Some anthropological studies show that rape was not considered a crime in ancient times. Many incidents of gang rape, abduction of virgins, or theft of brides have been justified as necessary for the survival of certain tribes. Furthermore, rape has been sometimes used by primitive people as an expression of manhood, an indication of the concept of women as property, and a mechanism of social control to keep women in line.

While some theorists, like Freud, Jung, Marx, and Engels, subtly avoid the issue of rape, others like Helene Deutsch and Karen Horney interpret it as an "innate masochism" that is part of every woman's fantasy world. Feminist scholars, on the other hand, accept Susan Brownmiller's idea of "penis as weapon" and see rape as indicating man's supression of woman. For the feminists, rape is a crime, and woman is the victim. The theme of rape has been dealt with from the classical to the modern period; it gets serious scholarly attention in the twentieth century due to the rise of the feminist movement.


Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages

In the classical era, rape is considered a crime in both Greek and Roman society. According to Athenian law, the rapist is legally guilty and the penalty is a monetary fine. The raped victim, on the other hand, is punished with varying degrees of social ostracism. Under Roman law, the rapist could be prosecuted by the man under whose authority the wronged woman falls.Yet, the raped

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Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs: L-Z - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xv
  • Bibliography xxii
  • L 691
  • N 885
  • O 929
  • P 935
  • R 1021
  • S 1109
  • Selected Bibliography 1126
  • T 1255
  • U 1333
  • V 1373
  • W 1383
  • Cross-Index 1389
  • Index 1401
  • About the Editors and Contributors 1495
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