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CModS Forum Research Seminar: The potential for language to reflect/affect societal beliefs surrounding gendered violence

Wednesday 9 February 2022, 3.00PM to 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Flora Sagers and Sarah Lapacz

Join our PG forum’s first research seminar of the spring term, part of a series of events that offer postgraduate students in the Centre for Modern Studies and beyond the opportunity to present a short piece of work to an interdisciplinary audience.

The event consists of two presentations from Flora Sagers and Sarah Lapacz
followed by a Q&A. If you have any questions or queries, please send us an email.

"Serial/Simultaneous: Authenticity, the Self, and Trauma in Maggie Nelson" by Flora Sagers

The paper I will deliver explores the presentation of trauma through serialisation in the work of the acclaimed autotheoretical and autofictional writer, Maggie Nelson. Focussing on Nelson’s The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial (2017) and Jane: A Murder (2016), I argue that these texts should be viewed in series. After all, whilst Jane: A Murder (2016) sees Nelson appropriate the voice of her murdered Aunt Jane and explores Nelson’s haunting of and by Jane in an autofictional format, the autotheoretical The Red Parts (2017) details the simultaneous trial of Jane’s alleged killer and Nelson’s promotional schedule for Jane: A Murder. Viewing these two texts as, and in, series, then, allows for an in-depth analysis of authenticity: where does authenticity reside in autotheoretical and autofictional works? How might the serialisation of the self help Nelson to authentically present her self? I argue that Nelson refracts and reflects both her self and the intergenerational trauma of her family through the serial form of these texts, and the modes of serialisation found in their pages, positing that the serial form is uniquely suited to a contemporary authentic examination of trauma, gendered violence, family dynamics, and the artist as public and private persona. Indeed, I argue that the very gaps inherent within the series – both in the form of considered, blank, pages in Jane: A Murder (2016), and in the gap in time between publications – are an integral component of the authentic presentation of a self experiencing trauma.

Flora Sagers completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Cambridge and is in the secondary year of her PhD with the University of York. Her thesis will examine the politics of the serial form as used by contemporary women writers through examination of authors such as: Claudia Rankine, Ali Smith, Maggie Nelson, Elena Ferrante and Chris Kraus.

"The influence of linguistic structures and reported details in victim blaming on the perception of guilt" by Sarah Lapacz

Evidence in the investigation of sexual assault often relies entirely on provided statements (Capps and Ochs 1995: 21), which underlines the complexity of the issues of sexual violence and the importance that the language used in connection with those crimes carries. Despite extensive research into the effects of rape myths and victim blaming (VB) on the perception of guilt and blame (cf. e.g. Bernard et al. 2015; Cohn et al. 2009; Ellison & Munro 2010), little research has been done on the different types of victim blaming and in how far they can vary in their influence on those perceptions.

The present study explores the influence of VB (based on reported details and linguistic structures) in witness statements on the perceived level of guilt of the accuser (A) and the alleged perpetrator (P) in cases of date rape. It also investigates how the witness’ (W) level of trustworthiness and competence were influenced by the inclusion of the different types of VB in their statement.

Data was collected from 40 US and 40 UK nationals via an online survey. The analysis showed that VB affects the perception of guilt of P, as well as of A, if only slightly. P was predominantly judged as being less guilty in cases where VB occurred, with the blame being partially shifted onto A. Generally, participants rated W lower in trustworthiness and competence when W commented on V’s outfit. Beyond this, the effect of other forms of VB presented in the statements is rather minor.

Bernard, P., Loughnan, S., Marchal, C., & Godart, A. (2015). The exonerating effect of sexual objectification: Sexual objectification decreases rapist blame in a stranger rape context. Sex Roles, 72, 499-508.

Capps, L., & Ochs, E. (1995). Constructing Panic: The Discourse of Agoraphobia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Cohn, E. S., Dupius, E. N., & Brown, T. M. (2009). In the eye of the beholder: Do behaviour and character affect victim and perpetrator responsibility for acquaintance rape?. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39, 1513-1535.

Ellison, L. & Munro, V. E. (2010) A stranger in the bushes, or an elephant in the room?Critical reflections upon received rape myth wisdom in the context of a mock jury study. New Criminal Law Review: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal,13(4), 781-801.

Sarah Lapacz (she/her) is currently pursuing a PhD in Linguistics at the University of York on the topic of hate speech in the context of threatening speech. She completed her M.A. in Applied Linguistics at the University of Bonn, Germany, in 2019. Her research interests lie within forensic linguistics and sociolinguistics with a focus on taboo language and discrimination through language.

Location: Zoom