The juridico-symbolic violence, which includes or excludes the survivors of the Holocaust and wartime rape in Bosnia from the legal category of a witness, shapes the reader's bodily engagement with texts. The MA program of Gender and Women's studies and the institutional networks with the English and Comparative Literature and Law department at AUC have facilitated my reading of three main texts: a novel about wartime rape in Bosnia S.: A story about the Balkans, a particular world map rendering of the former Yugoslavia, and the judicial opinions found in a landmark case regarding wartime rape in Bosnia, Kunarac. My work aligns with these texts in their crying out for an interdisciplinary approach that can cast light on the subjectivity, fluidity, and uncertainty of the witness. This thesis documents how my bodily engagement with the texts provides access to a constellation of theoretical and methodological vantage pointsâ my self-reflections and witnessing of others vis-Ã -vis the Other of oneself. My three sensibilitiesâ passion for the novel S., confusion for the world map, and alienation for the legal document Kunaracâ are examined and woven through the discussion. My analysis centers on how a literary critic becomes a rhetorical witness who is simultaneously 1) situated not just in a particular frame of literary and textual spaces, but also across various genres and times and 2) reflecting, resisting, and subverting legal notions of witness. While trying to enter into spaces of identification with both legally identified and unidentified witnesses, the rhetorical witness is, as yet, grounded amidst the hegemonic legal culture. This hegemony, in turn, yields political intents, as well as, aesthetic and ethical effects upon the rhetorical witness. The rhetorical witness develops discursive strategies for managing the complex and ideologically challenging potential of justice rendering and gender justice incurred by these texts. Texts reshape political, legal, and cultural life of readers, but empathic reading of texts also reconfigures the identity of the self-as-reader into the rhetorical witness. Concluding thoughts are proposed on the ethics of reading, and the space left for the rhetorical witness and her contribution to ethical dialogue.


Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender and Women's Studies

Degree Name

MA in Gender & Women's Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

July 2010

First Advisor

Escorihuela, Alejandro Lorite

Second Advisor

Rieker, Marti



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Critical thinking.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Books and reading.


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item