Victims of rape and torture experience a forced intimacy with their violators that may be exaggerated, unveiled, or obscured in the act of representation. Focusing on acts of "intimate violence" and their fictional representations, this study explores the disturbing dynamics that propel readers into intimate contact with the power of the rapist or the vulnerability of the victim.
Using such notorious works as D. M. Thomas's The White Hotel, Hubert Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn, and Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, as well as novels by William Faulkner, George Orwell, Gloria Naylor, and Louise Erdrich, Intimate Violence offers a theory of reading violation that emphasizes the reader's status as negotiator between the conventions of representation and the material dynamics of violence. Suspended between material and semiotic worlds, the reader in the scene of violence must adopt a position relative not only to victim and violator but to the attitudes about violation encoded in representation and experienced through reading. The reader may find the victim's body reduced to literary convention or unveiled with agonizing specificity, be swept up by the rhythms of the violator's force or experience the jarring disruptions of the victim's pain.
Appropriating elements of diverse theoretical models, such as feminist film theory, Marxism, and theories of the body, Intimate Violence renders visible the way in which representations of violation may exaggerate the reader's disembodied status or, conversely, lend that reader a textual body which delimits his or her experience of the text.