The Literary Legacy of Child Sexual Abuse : Psychoanalytic Readings of an American Tradition book cover
1st Edition

The Literary Legacy of Child Sexual Abuse
Psychoanalytic Readings of an American Tradition

  • Available for pre-order on June 9, 2023. Item will ship after June 30, 2023
ISBN 9781032023021
June 30, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
328 Pages

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USD $170.00

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Book Description

This book examines the representation of child sexual abuse in five American novels written from 1850 to the present. The historical range of the novels shows that child sexual abuse is not a new problem, although it has been called by other names in other eras. The introduction explains what literature and literary criticism bring to persistent questions that arise when children are sexually abused. Psychoanalytic concepts developed by Freud, Ferenczi, Kohut, and Lacan inform readings of the novels. Theories of trauma, shame, psychosis, and perversion provide insights into the characters represented in the stories. Each chapter is guided by a difficult question that has arisen from real-life situations of child sexual abuse. Legal and therapeutic interventions respond with their disciplinary resources to these questions as they concern victims, perpetrators, and witnesses. Literary criticism offers another analytic framework that can significantly inform those responses.

Table of Contents

A Personal Preface


Introduction: Reading Stories, Asking Questions

Chapter 1: Telling in Her Own Time:

Shame and the Delay of Disclosure in The Scarlet Letter

Chapter 2: Loose Screws and Loose Ends:

The Value of Uncertainty in The Turn of the Screw

Chapter 3: Parody, Perversion, and Pedophilia:

Consent and the Pornography of Art in Lolita

Chapter 4: The Colors of Shame:

Varieties of Racism in The Bluest Eye

Chapter 5: The Wound and the Blessing:

Witnessing for One and for All in Gilead

Afterword: What Fiction Can Do for Life


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Beverly Haviland is a Visiting Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in American Studies at Brown University. She is the author of Henry James’s Last Romance: Making Sense of the Past and the American Scene and the editor of The Sense of the Past in The Complete Fiction of Henry James.