Narratives of Child Sexual Abuse (MLI2207)

StaffProfessor Luciano Parisi - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module’s main aims are:

  • To make you fully aware of how stories can make duration into oriented and meaningful life, and to reflect on the implications of silence, when stories remain untold
  • To approach relevant, controversial and emotionally charged topics with an informed and well-balanced approach
  • To recognise, analyse and evaluate the traumatic aspects that sexual violence very often has
  • To illustrate the different ways in which stories of child sexual abuse have been told in a European and North American context, according to time, place, medium, interlocutors and point of view

Lectures introduce you to the material covered, identifying critical and interpretative approaches and providing the historical, social and cultural background. You are expected to reflect on texts independently. Responsibility for the seminars is shared between the tutor, who informs you of the topics to be discussed, and you, who is asked to make presentation in the group and to participate in discussions. Parts of the lectures will also be developed as critical discussions. You are given feedback on your work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a sound understanding of the traumatic nature of child sexual abuse and of the various contexts in which it takes place
  • 2. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the major works associated with the chosen theme, and an understanding of their significance in the broader historical and cultural context in which they were produced

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. With some guidance from the course tutor(s), evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches to the material covered
  • 4. Mount a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, mustering a range of textual or other evidence in its support
  • 5. Understand and use, in written and oral contexts, a range of critical terms
  • 6. Access and use critically printed and, where appropriate, electronic learning resources identified as useful by the course tutor(s), and, to a limited extent, discover other useful materials independently
  • 7. Analyse selected texts/films, relating them to significant elements in their cultural/historical/generic context
  • 8. Use recommended reference works to compile a bibliography, within given parameters (chronological, thematic, etc.) on a specified topic

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Undertake defined learning activities with a measure of autonomy, asking for guidance where necessaryUndertake defined learning activities with a measure of autonomy, asking for guidance where necessary
  • 10. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument
  • 11. Present a cogent and sustained argument orally/in writing, in English/in the TL, on a topic chosen from a range of options provided, following broad guidelines but selecting and adapting them as required

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Domestic violence and child sexual abuse: Freud, Ferenczi, Herman
  • The dialectic of psychological trauma.
  • The nature, value and constraints of narratives
  • Narratives of child sexual abuse: is a periodization possible?
  • Terror, disconnection, captivity
  • Cristina Comencini’s Don’t Tell and its reception history.
  • Dacia Maraini’s Voices , discussion and analysis
  • Dacia Maraini’s The Age of Discontent , discussion and analysis
  • Alberto Moravia’s Time of Indifference , discussion and analysis
  • Alberto Moravia’s other work and Grazia Deledda’s Ashes
  • Paola Drigo’s Maria Zef . Discussion and analysis of Maria Zef
  • Discussion of the essay questions. Revision

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Seminars and class discussions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Revision
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay500 words1-11Oral and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002500 words1-11Oral and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-11Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Set texts:

  • Sigmund Freud, ‘On the Aetiology of Hysteria’, (1896), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud , Volume III (1893-1899): Early Psycho-Analytic Publications , pp. 187-221
  • Sándor Ferenczi, ‘The Confusion of Tongues Between Adults and Children: The Language of Tenderness and of Passion’ (1933), International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 30 (1949), no. 4, pp. 176-85
  • Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery (London: Pandora, 1997), introduction and a further chapter agreed with the lecturer
  • Paola Drigo, Maria Zef (London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989) [1936]
  • Dacia Maraini, The Age of Discontent (London: Panther Books, 1968) [1963] and selected passages from Voices
  • Alberto Moravia, The Time of Indifference (London: Secker & Warburg, 1953) and selected passages from some of his other works

Suggested texts:

A detailed list will be circulated in class: it will include helpful secondary literature and a list of other novels and short stories about sexually victimized children, from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866) to Christiane Rochefort’s La porte du fond (1988) and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999). Students are allowed to replace one of the three set novels with a different text from any literature, if available in translation or in a language spoken by the tutor(s). This must be agreed with the module convenor by the end of week 7.

ELE – A good selection of set and suggested texts is available on ELE. All set texts are available on either ELE or the library.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

If you have been affected by any of the issues thematised in this module, you can access support such as the following:

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Children, Sexual abuse, Trauma, Recovery, Public realm, Chbosky, Deledda, Dostoyevsky , Drigo, Maraini, Moravia, Rochefort, Smiley