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Gregory VanHoosier Carey on "Penetration and the Insinuation of Rape"

The Request

We are quite interested in your work on postbellum Southern fiction, particularly your ideas about the racialized and sexualized discourse that Southern writers and academics employed to describe the supposed unjust invasion and domination of the South during Reconstruction. Your analysis of the Dixon novels The Leopard's Spots and The Clansman and the role that hysteria about racial impurity played in negotiating Southern class differences while undermining the populist political movmentt seems to intersect this clip in interesting ways. We are especially interested in your discussion of Griffith's promotion of this hysteria through the visual medium of film.

One of the important issues associated with The Birth of a Nation is the revision and remediation of the Thomas Dixon novels,The Leopard's Spots and The Clansman on which the film is based. The two novels depict explicit rapes and portray them as the incidents that precipitate and supposedly justify violent white retaliation against African-Americans; the film, on the other hand, uses the visual medium to tap emotionally into racist fears of sexual transgression without direct depiction. Acts involving invasion and forced entry in the film, such as the Union intrusion into the Cameron home in this scene, connote the violent penetration associated with rape and thereby provide an emotional trigger similar to the more explict scenes in the novels.

See CLIP 3.