My doctoral investigation will focus on Nepalese women’s experience of sexual violence and trauma, responding to a gap in Western literature and expanding understanding of the link between marginalisations and experiences of trauma. In doing so, I will advance current discussions of sexual violence in feminist theory, trauma studies and literary theory and ethically represent the multiplicity of women’s experience with sexual violence and trauma.
As understanding of sexual violence, and the language used to describe it, shifts, there is a corresponding need to reconceptualise the ethics of writing sexual violence and its consequences. Feminist theorists highlight how representing sexual violence also risks producing voyeuristic spectacles of eroticism, violence and victimisation. Re-writing sexual violence can create a ‘double violation’ (Kabir, 2010). By combining critical and creative approaches through a thesis and a short story collection, my research explores this question: as writers bearing witness to women’s experiences of sexual violence and trauma, how do we contend with the double violation and write ethically?
To achieve this, I will conduct a comparative analysis of texts by Yara Rodrigues Fowler, Emma Glass, Meena Kandasamy, and Carmen Maria Machado, which span different genre and form. Using their work as case studies, I will examine the effect of literary techniques, seek out ethical ways of representing sexual violence, and apply them in my own writing. My project will focus on three strands: a) writing an ethical language of the body; b) writing trauma through textual silence and mundanity; c) using metafiction and metatextuality to articulate sexual violence. I will use frameworks such as the ‘victim-survivor narrative’ (Jean-Charles, 2014) which highlight the significance of racial and cultural identity in negotiations of trauma. This research is crucial in moving towards more ethical ways of discussing and writing sexual violence in literature and wider socio-cultural contexts.