Paradoxical passivity: An analysis of the intersection of rhetorical, narrative, reader-response, and feminist theory in contemporary British and American novels



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Texas Tech University


Readers of contemporary British and American narrative often consider certain novels to be authentic and realistic, in spite of seemingly implausible behavior by female protagonists who are faced with abuse or aggression. Through the use of a conductive and evaluative methodology, the dissertation provides an analysis of the intersection of the reader's fixed beliefs with the norms within given texts. Several paradigms are suggested for examining the incongruity and double standards in the reader's expectations for male characters and the previously unquestioned acceptance of female characters who respond passively to aggression. Readers generally dismiss or disregard any male protagonist who abdicates the right of self-defense. Paradoxically, the female protagonists who respond to acts of abuse or aggression with passivity or in other ways that seem contrary to the laws of self-preservation are generally viewed by readers as behaving "normally." The issue of a reader's belief, disbelief, and the norms governing the typical suspension of disbelief are addressed in the context of the psychopathological actions and reactions of the abused and the abuser, the captive and the captor.



Sex role in literature, Women in literature -- United States, Feminist theory, Feminism and literature, Women in literature -- Great Britain, Feminist literary criticism