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This page intentionally left blank : silence and sexual violence in contemporary Canadian literature and drama Lorenzi, Lucia Marie


Spanning a variety of genres, including autobiography, fiction, and drama, “This Page Intentionally Left Blank: Silence and Sexual Violence in Canadian Literature and Drama” investigates the use of silence as an aesthetic and political strategy of resistance in depictions of sexualized and gendered violence. I argue that by using silence, selected authors and playwrights challenge expectations of how violence is to be articulated, particularly because speech about violence frequently risks being fetishized, appropriated, or even risks enacting representative violence itself. The introduction establishes a methodological framework for my analysis, tracing a history of silence and its relationship to sexual assault narratives. In Chapter 1, I discuss histories of censorship in order to set up a historical and political context for silence as a tool of oppression. In doing so, I also situate censorship and silencing as a nuanced phenomenon, discussing in particular the ways in which reluctant speech may be imagined as a politics of care for the reader. Chapter 2 investigates the genre of life writing in relation to the narrative expectations of legal testimony. I demonstrate how judicial expectations of speech affect autobiographical works, and how Maggie de Vries’ memoir of her sister’s life (and death) consciously operates outside of these discursive boundaries. In Chapter 3, I move towards a discussion of drama, with a particular focus on how playwrights Marie Clements and Colleen Wagner navigate embodied representations of sexual assault and their legacies within theatrical history. My final chapter examines works of fiction by Emma Donoghue and Anne Stone, articulating their relationship to and contravention of generic expectations of popular fiction. This chapter explores the fraught relationship between sexual assault and discourses of fiction and fact. This dissertation offers several important contributions to the fields of both trauma theory and Canadian literature: it dismantles the binary between speech and silence in order to form a more nuanced understanding of experience and representation; it theorizes how recuperative silences function across a number of genres; finally, it offers a unifying study of sexualized violence across the diverse field of Canadian literature.

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