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Oct. 14 lecture to focus on sexual assault in literature, cinema

By Adriana Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences

PULLMAN, Wash. – Literary and cinematic representations of sexual assault, especially on college campuses, will be examined in a free, public lecture at Washington State University Pullman on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at 5:30 pm in Goertzen Hall room 21.

Donna Potts, professor of English, will present “‘Readings Will Grow Erratic’: Reading Rape in the Humanities.” It is the first of three lectures on a diverse range of topics to be delivered this fall and next spring by the inaugural cohort of humanities fellows at WSU and the first in the 2014-15 WSU Honors College Distinguished Lectures Series.

“Potts’ study of sexual assault is very self-consciously situated within the social context of the academy. Sexual assault in the academy is an especially sensitive and timely subject, with far too little attention having been paid to the safety of women on campuses across the nation,” said Christopher Lupke, professor of Chinese and chair of the Humanities Planning Group, sponsor of the lecture series.

Potts’ academic investigation of the topic has the benefit of bridging the gap between the environment in which we work and the work of scholarship itself, he said.

According to Potts, the bodies of women and violation of them historically in literature has essentially been conceived of only in symbolic terms, as transgressions against a family name, a city, or the state. The female body was not valued for its intrinsic worth.

“Her study offers a critical re-reading of rape that re-reads the violence and the sexuality back into the texts that have deflected the literal sexual component by transforming it into metaphor or symbol,” Lupke said. The material for her study ranges from classical representations to modern and contemporary ones.

Upcoming lectures by humanities fellows are by Susan Dente Ross, professor of English, “A Madwoman in Suburbia: Life In and Out of Asylums”; and Michael Hubert, assistant professor of Spanish, “Development of Speaking and Writing of Foreign Language.”

The Humanities Fellows program was developed with funding from the College of Arts and Sciences to support WSU faculty research in the humanities.


Christopher Lupke, chair, Humanities Planning Group, 509-335-2755,

Debbie Brudie, finance/office manager, Humanities Planning Group, 509-335-0698,

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