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"Her Body Is Her Own"

Title: "Her Body Is Her Own": Victorian Feminists, Sexual Violence, and Political Subjectivity.
Name(s): Trumble, Kelly Lynn, author
Standley, Fred, professor directing dissertation
Boutin, Aimee, outside committee member
Burke, Helen, committee member
Faulk, Barry, committee member
Department of English, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2004
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: During the latter half of the nineteenth century, women publicly confronted the issue of sexual violence for the first time. Feminists campaigned against the state-sanctioned "instrumental rape" perpetrated on women under the Contagious Diseases Acts, demanded access to medical knowledge in order to free themselves from the hands of male doctors, and attacked the marital exemption in rape law, an effort which paved the way for a married woman's legal right to her own body. This dissertation traces the journey of selected Victorian feminists toward political subjectivity by exploring how their discussions of and resistance against sexual violence served as a key portal through which they began to construct themselves as "subjects" with a natural right to bodily integrity. Making use of feminist narratological theories, I analyze the rhetorical strategies emerging from women's non-fictional texts to argue that their resistance against the myriad forms of sexual violence became indistinguishable from the struggle for political subjectivity, the liberties that women believed they held as politically equal individuals. Feminists struck at the heart of liberal political theory, exposing the falsity of the public/private distinction which effectively disqualified women from consideration as civil individuals capable of making choices concerning their own lives and bodies. They appropriated liberalism's theory of liberty and equality, including themselves in that liberal definition to argue that all people, not just men, were created as free and equal individuals with the concomitant right to bodily inviolability. By ignoring the gender discrimination upon which the English constitutional system rested and positioning themselves as political subjects whose freedom of self-ownership was being infringed upon, feminists were, I would suggest, shifting the prevailing assumption of women's rights through ideological change. If women were perceived as civil subjects with all the measures of political freedom granted to them, they could end sexual abuse by affecting the laws that made that abuse possible. However, once women discovered that an ideological shift alone would not prompt male legislators to act on their behalf, they transferred their energies into lobbying for female suffrage, the only means by which they might protect themselves and their own interests.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-1508 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of English in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2004.
Date of Defense: November 19, 2003.
Keywords: Feminism, Feminist Narratology, Narratology, Sexual Abuse, Marriage, Sexual Contract, Josephine Butler, Power, Midwives, Female Doctors, Medicine, Contagious Diseases Acts, Women's Movement, John Locke, Sexual Assault, Rape, Women
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory committee: Fred Standley, Professor Directing Dissertation; Aimee Boutin, Outside Committee Member; Helen Burke, Committee Member; Barry Faulk, Committee Member.
Subject(s): English literature
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

Choose the citation style.
Trumble, K. L. (2004). "Her Body Is Her Own": Victorian Feminists, Sexual Violence, and Political Subjectivity. Retrieved from