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UNSUITABLE #22: On Sexual Abuse


Apr 23 2018


12:00 pm - 1:15 pm


Pink Parlor, East Duke Building

Duke's East Campus

Unsuitable series

UNSUITABLE #22: From Harassment and Assault to Happily Ever After

The Long History of Sexual Abuse in Romantic Fiction

When a girl protests that a boy is harassing her, how often does she hear from others, “He just likes you!”? The Western tradition of romantic fiction has long reinforced this scenario, from the birth of the modern novel in the eighteenth century with books like Samuel Richardson’s Pamela to recent blockbusters like Fifty Shades of Grey. As we grapple now with seemingly endemic sexual harassment and abuse across government, entertainment, education, medicine, sports, and other industries, we’ll look at the origins of the enduring trope that promises a woman a future full of romantic bliss and financial security—if only she submits against her will. Featuring senior editor at The Daily Beast Erin Gloria Ryan and professor of feminist literature Charlotte Sussman, and moderated by professor of African-American History Adriane Lentz-Smith, this conversation is open to all in the Duke community and the public.

Free and open to the public. Light lunch served. Co-sponsors include Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics, African & African American Studies, History Department, Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, Religious Studies, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, #Artstigators, and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.


Erin Gloria Ryan

Erin Gloria Ryan is a contributing editor to the Daily Beast and a contributor to Crooked Media and HLN's SE Cupp Unfiltered. She has just finished writing on the new season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and splits her time between New York City and Los Angeles. Originally from…...

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Charlotte Sussman

Duke University

Charlotte Sussman is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. She is the author of Consuming Anxieties: Consumer Protest, Gender and British Slavery, 1713-1833 (2000) and Imagining the Population: British Literature in an Age of Mass Migration, 1660-1838 (2005). She has published articles on Samuel Richardson, Charlotte Smith, Walter Scott,…...

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Adriane Lentz-Smith

Duke University

Adriane Lentz-Smith is associate professor of history and African & African American studies at Duke University where she teaches courses on Black Lives, the Black Freedom Struggle, and history in fiction and fact. The author of Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (Harvard, 2009), Lentz-Smith researches and writes…...

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