Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Edward Rusty Barrett


This project examines rape culture in American literature and society, exploring factors of rape culture through the narratives of literary protagonists and current women alike. Each chapter is grounded in a work of literature, which serves as a lens through which to analyze a factor of rape culture, and is then broadened in scope to incorporate recent court cases that have had significant sociocultural impacts. The introduction includes a critical review of rape in feminist theory, from Susan Brownmiller to Ann J. Cahill. The first chapter treats the rape of Dolores Haze and victim blaming in Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 Lolita, and the 2010 Cleveland, Texas gang rapes of an eleven-year-old girl, who was cast as a “Lolita” by her community and the media. The second chapter discusses the rape of women with disabilities in Elmer Harris’s 1940 Johnny Belinda, and two 2012 cases in California and Connecticut involving the rapes of women with disabilities and the issue of consent, both of which influenced legislation. The third chapter focuses on the use of mass rape as a weapon of war in Lynn Nottage’s 2009 Ruined, and the narratives and testimonies of rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where nearly 2 million women have been raped since 1998. As the literature illustrates, when rape functions as an instrument of power and control certain similarities arise, such as victim blaming, consent, and the use of rape to demoralize and subjugate women, all of which are primary features of rape culture.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)