Book Review: Speaking Out: Feminism, rape and narrative politics

Published date01 February 2022
Date01 February 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
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TANYA SERISIER, Speaking Out: Feminism, rape and narrative politics. Palgrave Macmillan, 1st edn
2018 (2020), pp. 272, ISBN 978-3030404253, £22.99 (pbk).
In the Greek mythological story, Cassandra is given the gift of true prophecies by Apollo.
However, once she refuses to repay with her love, the God puts a curse on her. From now
on, she will see the future, but she would never be believed. She witnessed in silence the
fall of Troy, her own rape and death.
Since the late 1940s psychology has reduced
Cassandras experience to illustrate a complex’–a personal one: the clinical emotional
and psychological struggle of those who are disbelieved. Some scholars have prof‌iled
Cassandra as a symbol of the manic, the hysterical.
But what if Aeschylus was alerting
us to something completely different? That is, to our social tragedy of not listening.
In Speaking Out Serisier provides insight into the complex world of narrative; the text
focuses on rape memoirs predominantly driven and made public by and through second-
wave feminism (p. 26). Serisier expounds that once a window was open to accommodate
these stories in the public space, the promise for cultural change about rape and the
experience of rape survivals started to brew (p. 6). The benef‌its of speaking of ones
own experience not only assumed to challenge power relations (p. 184), but it created
a literal genre (p. 44). Serisier explains that their authority as public survivors of rape
challenged the cultural limitations placed on womens speech, and the historical
refusal to deny, minimise, or ignoretheir narratives; hence, these stories are victories
for feminism [] as the producer and enabler of a genre of womens stories(pp. 4041).
Speaking Out critically examines published rape memoirs to investigate the ‘“turning
pointin public reception of survivor narratives and the cultural authority of the discourse
of speaking out(p. 210). The reading is methodologically elegant, but also instructive
and accessible in its simplicity; its clarity and coherency, matched with a comprehensive
theoretical framework, make the text a research-method guide. The analysis is grounded
with the work of Bakhtin and Derrida; hence, emphasising that this is not a book about
rape(p. 13), but rather, about the interpretations and implications of words. The scope of
Book Reviews 169

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