A study into the narrative techniques used to convey non-physical childhood sexual abuse and trauma in contemporary Western fiction
Brunel University, London
Year of enrolment: 2021
Email: To follow
By exploring the techniques used by authors of fiction to convey and represent the variant forms of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), my research aims to provide fresh literary and feminist insight into experiences that are not commonly represented in Western literature and understanding: abuse that does not include or involve unwanted touching, but which instead consists of exposure and harassment. In exploring these forms of CSA, I will advance current discussions within the trauma canon of feminist theory, and further develop trauma language frameworks pioneered by theorists such as Cathy Caruth.
To achieve this aim, I will conduct a comparative analysis between texts that explore childhood or adolescent sexual violence – such as those by Sapphire, Roxane Gay, Emma Glass, Rebecca Watson and Edward St Aubyn – and feminist discourse and psychoanalysis, to seek out methods for use in my own writing, with a particular focus on the role of memory in realising trauma. My project will focus on these strands: a) memory creating trauma; b) mirroring trauma; and c) the language of trauma.
I will use my findings to inform my creative component, a full-length novel featuring an adult female survivor of CSA, whose experiences do not fit the widely-accepted blueprint of trauma, and whose emotional and mental wellbeing are not synonymous with arguably dated Western understandings of a ‘trauma survivor’.
As movements such as #MeToo demonstrate, there is space to readdress our approaches to writing sexual violence, and this research is crucial in developing conversations around trauma, and in shifting cultural understanding around variant forms of sexual violence. By combining my critical analyses with a full-length novel, I will be exploring this question: As writers of CSA, how can we represent diverse and variant forms of violence and trauma?