Survivor Rhetoric: Negotiations and Narrativity in Abused Women's Language


241 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-8973-9
DDC 362.88'083




Edited by Christine Shearer-Cremean and Carol L. Winkelmann
Reviewed by Margaret Conrad

Margaret Conrad is Canada Research Chair in Atlantic Canada Studies at
the University of New Brunswick. She is the author of Atlantic Canada: A
Region in the Making, and co-author of Intimate Relations: Family and
Community in Planter Nova Scotia, 1759–


This book is a collection of eight essays by scholars from a variety of
disciplines who focus on the language of abused women and girls, and of
the family members, police, psychologists, and social workers with whom
they interact. While the language in the introduction is clearly
influenced by postmodern theory—the editors both work in English
departments—most of the essays take the form of case studies that ably
demonstrate the value of discourse analysis without burdening the reader
unduly with difficult theoretical musings.

The research published here is designed to make a contribution to
progressive social change, which the authors believe is best achieved by
a strategy informed by the local and the particular. In this volume, the
local is primarily found in the United States, where most of the
researchers reside. Only one essay is written by scholars based in
Canada: Cindy Holmes and Janice L. Ristock explore the “discursive
constructions” in three Canadian booklets designed to help lesbians
who are experiencing domestic abuse, and in writings by authors, such as
Christina Hoff Sommers, Donna Laframboise, and Patricia Pearson, who
criticize feminist research on violence against women.

Taken as a whole, these essays call into question easy generalizations
about the assumptions and processes employed to address woman abuse,
such as those found in Judith L. Herman’s classic Trauma and Recovery
(1992). Carrie N. Baker, for example, exposes understandings of gender,
class, and agency underlying the notion of a Battered Woman Syndrome
that fails to capture the complexity of women’s lives and the
constraints imposed by a male-dominated “system.” Batya Weinbaum’s
essay, which explores how one woman transposed her emotions shaped in an
abusive Catholic family context to Israel, where she embraced a
right-wing political movement, shows just how complicated the world of a
survivor of abuse can be.

Scholars and professionals interested in abuse issues will find much of
value in this book, as will those tracking the applicability of
postmodern theory.


“Survivor Rhetoric: Negotiations and Narrativity in Abused Women's Language,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,