Anglia Ruskin University
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Rape-revenge revisions: case studies in the contemporary film genre

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:40 authored by Claire Henry
Rape‐revenge is one of cinema studies’ neglected genres, even in spite of the plethora of examples globally over the past decade. This thesis redresses the lack of critical attention with an account of the contemporary genre that analyses the politics, ethics, and affects at play in the filmic construction of rape and its response. Each chapter examines a significant trend or aspect of the contemporary genre through in‐depth case studies, expanding the study of rape‐revenge from socio‐political or psychoanalytic perspectives to also include embodied, phenomenological perspectives and ethical issues. The case studies—including The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972/Dennis Iliadis, 2009), I Spit on Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978/Steven R. Monroe, 2010), Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003/2004), Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Park Chan‐Wook, 2005), Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007), Hard Candy (David Slade, 2005), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor) (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009), Descent (Talia Lugacy, 2007), Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland, 2009), and Twilight Portrait(Portret v sumerkakh) (Angelina Nikonova, 2011)—are framed in terms of rape‐revenge’s temporal, cross‐media, and cross‐cultural shifts, and also placed within the broader cultural myths and media narratives about rape. The contemporary genre reinscribes dominant, conservative cultural myths about rape and the appropriate response (eye for an eye revenge), while at the same time presenting interesting explorations of rape trauma and ethics and self‐reflexive challenges to spectating violence. Ambivalence also manifests in these films in that they both attest to the ongoing cultural relevance and popularity of rape‐revenge narratives, and yet push the genre’s limits and explore the possibility of responses to rape other than revenge. This research finds the rape‐revenge genre to be a flexible format with certain limitations but also great potential for political, affective, and ethical exploration of rape and responses to rape.



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