The thesis is an examination of Mary Hays's first and second novels, The Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796) and The Victim of Prejudice (1799) in order to claim a reworking of political and gender constructions of women that underwrite rape narratives produced in the Long Eighteenth Century. To discuss ways in which Hays's novels challenge the assumptions and constructions of femininity disseminated in earlier rape texts I have selected examples of polemic and narratives written between the 1670s and the 1790s together with some of the contemporary Radical texts which exhibit similar concerns and views expressed in the writer's feminist tracts and novels. I argue that Hays's gender politics are closely related to the issues played out in both novels. That is, The Memoirs of Emma Courtney is a protest against contemporary views of `femininity' and a sustained and rational argument for female sexual desire rather than feminine `depravity' or `madness'. The Victim of Prejudice asserts that although society's reaction to rape ensures dire consequences for the violated women her sexuality is not necessarily responsible for her rape. Hence, the view of women advanced in Hays's first novel is crucial to an understanding of issues raised in the refashioning of the rape episode in the second.

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