Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Gender & Women's Studies

Reader 1

Margaret Waller

Reader 2

Fazia Aïtel

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Rights Information

© 2020 Joslyn A Gardner


Slavery is commonly characterized by its exceptional violence. La Terreur insidieuse reveals how the physically brutal domination associated with slavery was transformed and reconfigured into a form of benevolence in the novel, Ourika, by Claire de Duras. It has generally been accepted by critics, such as Joan DeJean, Françoise Massardier-Kenney, and Adeline Koh that le Chevalier de B “saved Ourika from the terrible fate of slavery” (Massardier-Kenney 191). However, I argue that Ourika was not rescued from captivity, rather she experiences a benign form of domination, cruelty shrouded as love, which works to render her docile.

I first explore insidious violence in the novel by examining what Saidiya Hartman calls “innocent amusements.” The chapter, “White Pleasure and the Specter of the Whip,” analyzes how the salon and more specifically how Ourika’s benefactress, Mme de B., wield pleasure as a seemingly innocuous tool of subjection.

At the end of Ourika, the heroine flees to a convent to serve a color blind god and to constantly think about her impossible love. In my final chapter, “Fleeing the Myth of Inclusion,” I investigate notions of freedom and how Ourika’s flight can be read as a longing to live otherwise in a white, heteropatriarchal society that at once claims her as its repulsive and exotic Other.


Awarded the Phillis Johnson Prize for the best French thesis.