Upcoming symposium: Trans/Queer Gender and Narrative Form

GOTH is pleased to share details of an upcoming online conference that may be of interest to members. More information, including abstracts for all papers, can be found at the conference website.

TRANS/QUEER GENDER AND NARRATIVE FORM
15TH, 22ND AND 29TH APRIL 2021

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:
SUSAN LANSER, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY, US
TRISH SALAH, QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY, CAN

Since the first interventions in feminist narratology in the 1980s, the importance of gender as a contextual aspect of cultural productions has been firmly established in the study of narrative form. The interpretation of formal features such as narrative voice, poetic structure, temporality, genre and medium is inevitably influenced by the gender of those who produce, experience or are represented by texts. At the same time, queer and trans studies have established methodologies for approaching embodiment, ethics, social structures and cultural politics. This symposium brings together scholars working at the intersection of form and queer/trans gender in order to foster new approaches to the relationship between embodied identities and texts.

@fqtnarratives | www.fqtnarrative.wixsite.com/tqgendernarrative
Conference Organiser: Chiara Pellegrini
@chiarapg4 | c.pellegrini2@newcastle.ac.uk

PROGRAMME

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 3pm-5pm BST (GMT+1)

Writing/Reading/Playing Narratives of Trans Embodiment
Cody Mejeur, University at Buffalo

Tristessa de St Ange: A Character Study in TERF Light
Nemo Gorecki, Université de Lille SHS

Mad about the “Boys”? Passing and (Mis)recognition in Varro’s Eumenides
Chris Mowat, Sheffield University/Newcastle University

‘The Monopoliser of Her Own Sex’: Queering Methodism in The Female Husband
Grainne O’Hare, Newcastle University

Keynote:
Narrating Trans Genres: Ordinary Time Travel and Autobiographical Science Fictions
Trish Salah, Queen’s University (CA)

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3pm-5pm BST (GMT+1)

Trans Touches Across Time and Text: Confessions of the Fox
Gil Mozer, Mesa Community College

Trans Forms: Gender-variant Subjectivity and First-person Narration
Chiara Pellegrini, Newcastle University

From Male Impersonator to Drag King Performer: A Palimpsestuous Reading of Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet
Elsa Adán Hernández, University of Zaragoza

Asking Queer Questions about Narrative Coherence and Identity: How to Read ‘What She Knew’?
Joonas Säntti, University of Jyväskylä

Keynote:
Trans-forming Narratology
Susan Lanser, Brandeis University

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 3pm-5pm BST (GMT+1)

Narrating Queer Subjectivity in 1830s Russia: Nadezhda Durova’s A Year in St Petersburg (1838)
Margarita Vaysman, University of St Andrews

Duchess Achilles: Trans Narratives in James Thornhill’s Achilles on Scyros
Aimee Hinds, University of Roehampton

When Literary Studies meet Trans/Gender Studies: Working with German Autobiographies Written by Trans People using Queer Theory and Narratology
Sandy Kathy Artuso, LEQGF – Laboratoire d’Études Queer, sur le Genre et les Féminismes

Untimely Subjectivities: Queer/Diasporic Temporality in Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other
Carolina Sánchez-Palencia, University of Seville (Spain)

‘My Male Skin’: (Self-)Narratives of Transmasculinities in Fanfiction
Jonathan A. Rose, University of Passau

Conclusion of Symposium:
Breakout Rooms Discussion

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The (No Longer) Forgotten Women of Art and Literature

by Chris Dobson, GOTH PhD Student

From left to right: Saffron Coomber, Clare Perkins and Adelle Leonce in the Vaudeville Theatre production of the play in 2019.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how reading helped to get me through the first national lockdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK and around the world. Since then, I have started my PhD in English Literature at the Open University (OU), generously funded by the Gender and Otherness in the Humanities (GOTH) research centre. It’s been a strange time to embark on a research project in a new city: The pandemic has necessitated that all my interactions with OU staff and students have so far been conducted remotely over Microsoft Teams which, although convenient for a late riser such as myself, is not quite the same as the real thing. (The absence of the free drinks and snacks that are usually the staple of academic conferences is particularly lamentable!)

The introduction of a second English lockdown in November meant that the bookshops, museums and theatres that cultureholics like me depend on were closed. Still, this being the 21st century, I was able to enjoy a virtual trip to the West End – from the comfort of my home – to see the Olivier Award-winning play Emilia, written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and directed by Nicole Charles. The production inverts the male-only tradition of early modern English theatre by employing an all-female cast to tell the life story of Emilia Lanyer (née Bassano), who is portrayed by three actresses: Saffron Coomber, Adelle Leonce and Clare Perkins, each depicting the ground-breaking English poet at a different point in her life.

Some believe that Lanyer (whose first name was alternately spelled as ‘Aemilia’) was the lover of William Shakespeare, and the play supports this theory, but really what matters is not the men in her life, but rather the fact that Lanyer succeeded in publishing a volume of poetry at a time when the sexist gatekeepers of culture thought that ‘female poet’ was an oxymoron. Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum – meaning ‘Hail, God, King of the Jews’ – was first published in 1611 and there is no doubt that, had Lanyer been a man, her work would not have fallen into its current state of obscurity. The purpose of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play is to shine a spotlight on the achievements of this incredible woman and indirectly celebrate all the (hitherto) forgotten women of history. Although its online run has now come to an end, it is to be hoped that Emilia will one day grace the stage again, so that more people can learn about this trailblazer of English literature.

‘Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria’ by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1654 or later).

In that brief, blissful interlude between the end of the second lockdown and the imposition of tier 4 restrictions on much of the south-east of England, I was able to sneak a trip to London’s National Gallery to see its exhibition of paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi (pictured). It is the first time that a solo exhibition of the Italian artist has been put on in the UK and it almost didn’t happen, thanks to the first lockdown. Postponed until October, the exhibition has now tragically had its run cut short again. But don’t despair if you missed it: A virtual tour of the highlights is available for a couple more weeks on BBC iPlayer, so do check it out whilst you can!

Like Emilia Lanyer, Artemisia Gentileschi suffered many hardships in her life; as just a teenager, she was raped by an older male artist and in the ensuing trial had to endure torture to prove the validity of her evidence. Nevertheless, Gentileschi persisted with her artistic career, soon outshining her father Orazio with her intense, beautiful and sometimes furious paintings, such as Susanna and the Elders and Judith Beheading Holofernes. The exhibition includes some of Gentileschi’s letters to her lover, providing an intimate insight into the passion that characterised her life.

The National Gallery, by its own admission, contains a paucity of works by female artists. Hopefully this exhibition will be the first of many to redress this imbalance. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve been doing to cope with life in the pandemic. If you’re a postgraduate researcher and would like to know more about GOTH’s monthly postgraduate forums, you can email me at christopher.dobson@open.ac.uk.

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Roundup of recent blog posts by GOTH members

Here is a selection of blog posts written in the last few months by GOTH members for other blogs, which may be of interest to readers of the GOTH blog.

From the English and Creative Writing blog:

Gender and Otherness in the Humanities by Peg Katritzky

From the Arts & Humanities in the time of COVID-19 blog:

Doomscrolling: COVID-19 and Crisis Reading during lockdown by Edmund King

Bibliotherapy Lessons from Lockdown by Sally Blackburn-Daniels

Reading and Wellbeing revisited: surviving the pandemic by Shaf Towheed

Social Analysis and the COVID-19 Crisis by Suman Gupta

Italian Literature and Pandemics part 1 and part 2 by Francesca Benatti

Pevsner and Lockdown by Clare Taylor

Greek Tragedy in Lockdown by Christine Plastow

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Reading in the Age of Coronavirus: A Personal Account

by Chris Dobson, GOTH PhD Student

2020 started well for me. In January, I travelled down to Milton Keynes for an interview, and I was fortunate enough to be offered a PhD studentship at the Open University, which I eagerly accepted. Then, in February, I was offered a summer job at my local independent cinema in Edinburgh, where I was then living. I was so happy, I danced a little down Lothian Road – and I never dance.

At the same time, I started hearing more and more about a virus in China, but China felt so far away, so it didn’t trouble me much. Then the problem came closer to home, and I was horrified as the situation in Italy worsened. But, up until March, coronavirus still felt distant. Then, in the days following my 24th birthday, everything changed and the UK went into lockdown. With my summer job out of the window, I left Edinburgh and moved back home. There were still many months to go until the start of my doctoral research, so the big question was: How can I keep my mind occupied over the course of the long months ahead? The seemingly endless televised press conferences were driving me to despair, so I turned to literature for solace. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; I am, after all, a literature student.

But where to start? My home is crammed with books I’ve been meaning to read but never had time for. Well, now I had all the time in the world. Perhaps inevitably, I was drawn towards Shakespeare. I had studied several of his plays and seen many more of them performed. Yet his poetry – in its raw, non-theatrical form – remained somewhat of a mystery to me. I was familiar with his most famous sonnets, but I’d never before dared tackle all 154 of them. It was now or never, I decided. But because I had all the time in the world, I would take it slowly: One poem a day, every day, until I’d read them all.

Why is it important to read Shakespeare’s sonnets as a whole, not just as individual works of literature? In my eyes, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle: Sure, each piece might tell a beautiful story, but it’s only once you put them all together that you see the full picture. These poems are significant because they provide a possible glimpse into the Bard’s own love life – with both men and women, it seems. The first 126 are addressed to the ‘fair youth’, whose beauty, according to Sonnet 101, ‘needs no praise’. The remaining 28 are dedicated to the mysterious ‘dark lady’ whose ‘eyes are nothing like the sun’, as Shakespeare famously put it in Sonnet 130. My favourite poem in the collection is an early one, Sonnet 29, in which Shakespeare declares that he would rather be poor and in love than ‘change my state with kings.’ Given Will’s own relatively humble origins, it’s a wonderful challenge to the snobbery of his more elitist contemporary writers, who in the case of Robert Greene looked down on the ‘upstart crow’ who would go on to become the greatest poet in the English language.

Much as I love English literature, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Shakespeare, for instance, drew on the works of many European writers for inspiration. You will have heard of Geoffrey Chaucer, no doubt, but what about Giovanni Boccaccio, who influenced both Shakespeare and Chaucer? Born in the Republic of Florence in 1313, Boccaccio is best known for his Decameron, a collection of 100 short stories with ten narrators: Seven women and three men. They have fled their native Florence because of the plague and, in the absence of Netflix, must recount their own stories to entertain themselves over the course of ten days. I studied a handful of these tales during my undergraduate degree and I’d always meant to read the whole thing, but at nearly nine hundred pages, it felt dauntingly long. During lockdown, I took the same approach as I had with the sonnets: One story a day, every day, until I finished.

Unsurprisingly, given that they were written in the 14th century, a good number of these tales are problematic, particularly in their representation of gender and race. But Boccaccio also feels ahead of his time, with several strong female characters who, like in the plays of Shakespeare, cross-dress when necessary. There is Day 2 Story 3, for example, which features an abbot who is really the daughter of the king of England. Some tales are outrightly farcical (the opening and closing stories of Day 3, in particular), whilst others – especially those of Day 4 – are tragic in tone. All of the stories are standalone, with the exception of five (from the eighth and ninth days) which depict the exploits of Bruno and Buffalmacco, who enjoy playing pranks on their unwitting friends Calandrino and Master Simone.

Since all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and most of Boccaccio’s tales are quite short, they weren’t enough to keep me occupied during the long months of lockdown. I wanted to read something big, but with the pandemic still raging, it was hard to concentrate on a conventional novel. As a result, I ended up turning to The Walking Dead, the comic book (or, if you prefer, graphic novel) series that inspired the TV show of the same name. I’d watched the first few series of the show and enjoyed them, but I’d grown bored as the characters wandered aimlessly from episode to episode. I had known for a while about the comic series, but with over thirty volumes (consisting of nearly 200 issues in total!), I’d been wary of starting, in part because I knew it would be very expensive to buy them all in print. This summer, however, I was able to buy digital versions of the whole set relatively cheaply, and I quickly found myself addicted.

The Walking Dead centres on Rick Grimes, an American police officer who wakes up from a coma to discover that a zombie apocalypse has turned the world he knew upside down. Miraculously, he succeeds in finding his wife Lori and their son Carl in a camp outside Atlanta. Whilst at the beginning, the undead are the main threat to Rick and co’s survival, as the series (which ran from 2003 to 2019) develops, the focus shifts from the ‘walkers’ (that’s zombies to you and me) to the surviving humans in this part of the world. A zombie apocalypse might sound outlandish, and yet, reading this series in the time of COVID-19, I could empathise with the survivors’ attempts to adapt to a radically altered world. It was comforting, in a way, to tell myself: Well, at least things aren’t this bad in the real world. (Yet?)

I’m not a big fan of horror and occasionally the writer Robert Kirkman and the artists overdo the gore and violence for shock value, but the fact that the series is in black and white (in contrast to its TV show adaptation) helped to create a degree of distance, reminding me that it is just fiction. Like The Decameron, The Walking Dead is at times problematic, particularly in its early volumes: Most of the men take charge in defending the passive female characters, and non-white characters are few and far between. But over the course of the series, we get more diverse characters, including numerous gay or bisexual individuals. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised by how deep the series could be. Unlike the action-centred TV version, Kirkman’s The Walking Dead explores complex sociological and philosophical questions about society and human nature: Given the opportunity to completely remake society, where would we begin? And is there a limit to how much one person can endure?

It might not qualify as ‘high literature’, but I have no doubt that Kirkman’s magnum opus, like Shakespeare’s sonnets and Boccaccio’s Decameron, will be read for many years to come, especially in times of adversity like now.

Let me know what you’ve been reading or watching in the comments below, or tweet me @EngLitScholar.

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Two new online productions from By Jove Theatre Company

By Christine Plastow

Theatre, an art form and industry that has traditionally relied on the gathering of a (sometimes large) group of people in close quarters, has naturally been hit hard by the global coronavirus crisis. Not only productions but rehearsals and development sessions have had to be cancelled or postponed, and many theatre professionals are still out of work. There have been some benefits for audiences: for example, the National Theatre has been freely broadcasting a number of recordings from its back catalogue on YouTube. These recordings have opened up major productions to viewers who may otherwise never have seen them. But what about smaller theatres and companies, new work, and the ‘liveness’ that is, in many ways, intrinsic to the medium of theatre?

I’ve been a member of feminist theatre collective By Jove Theatre Company since 2011; in that time, we’ve developed several innovative productions that rework old stories (myths, legends, stories from the cultural canon) for modern audiences. When we realised that our audience was likely to be unable to attend in-person performances for a while, we decided to begin working with the possibilities that performing in the digital space offers. As is so often the case, we were drawn to Greek tragedy for our content. The narrative form of Greek tragedy deals with the moments of crisis in longer mythic narratives: each play tells a story almost in real-time, with characters forced to confront their own actions or those of others that have, almost always, led to death. This form seemed particularly apt for the moment of a global pandemic; indeed, Theatre of War’s digital Oedipus Project has already touched on that play’s backdrop of plague and pestilence as the most obvious touchstone for recent events.

In June and July we produced two digital performances, one live and one pre-recorded. Both dealt with powerful women from Greek mythology who commit acts of violence against their children; both evoke themes of community and isolation, the struggle for liberation and the consequences of women’s repression. The first was MEDEA LIVE, a new digital staging of playwright Wendy Haines’ retelling of Euripides’ Medea first performed by the company in 2017. Our digital staging saw the original performers reprise their roles—three actors performing three aspects of Medea—but perform live to webcam in their own homes in the middle of lockdown. This was more than a rehearsed reading, however: director David Bullen used the capabilities of the streaming platform Streamyard to move the Medeas around the screen, with blank screens appearing for the voices of Jason and other characters that are not embodied; the Medeas seemed to be circling, trapped in an inescapable situation and closing in on acts of terrible violence. Meanwhile, performers SJ Brady, Sinead Costelloe, and Rosa Whicker moved around their performance spaces, sometimes closer to the camera and sometimes further away, offering a tantalising glimpse into the private space of Medea’s unhappy home. The performance was followed by a post-show discussion with theatre and classics academics and practitioners; both are still available to view on YouTube (with closed captions available for both performance and discussion).

Brady, Whicker, and Costelloe performing Medea Live.

Our second production was HERE SHE COMES, a epic spoken word retelling of Euripides’ Bacchae from the perspective of Agave, written and performed by SJ Brady with music by Vivienne Youel. This production was generously funded by the Institute of Classical Studies Public Engagement Grant. The production was audio only, and so we opted to present a pre-prepared recording to ensure the best audio quality for listeners. The recording was premiered on YouTube, alongside a slideshow prepared by SJ Brady that complemented the poem and evoked its themes and settings. Although Bacchae is another work of Greek tragedy, Brady’s work is designed more closely to evoke the ancient oral poets who performed long tales such as the Iliad and Odyssey; Brady performs the text solo, from memory, focusing on Agave but giving voice to a range of characters and utilising repeated linguistic motifs that intertwine with Vivenne Youel’s hypnotic music. The show is available to listen to on YouTube and Soundcloud, with a recording of the live post-show discussion also available on YouTube; David Bullen (By Jove Co-artistic Director; Theatre Studies, Royal Holloway) and I also produced an educational podcast to accompany the production that is available on YouTube and Soundcloud. All YouTube versions have closed captions available.

              

You can keep up to date with By Jove on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. The company receives no regular public funding, and so relies on supporters to help them make art, especially in these difficult times for the theatre industry. If you’re interested in supporting the company, you can become a regular patron on our Patreon, or if you enjoy the shows, please consider making a donation – we recommend £5, the price of a cheap theatre ticket.

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Gender, Race, and Empire in Early Modern Theatre

By Peg Katritzky

Among all our other reasons for remembering 2020 as The Lost Year, those of us who enjoy presenting at conferences are enduring unprecedented upheaval. Finally, academic meetings are re-appearing. However, much like metropolitan buses, they seem awkwardly bunched, easily missed and virtually inaccessible to those lacking the latest tech skills, hardware and IT support. This blog shares some thoughts arising from two excellent meetings I attended this week.

The international research collaborative TWB (Theater Without Borders) rescheduled its 2020 Annual Workshop from a week of live presentations and performances in May (Madrid) to a Zoom Virtual conference (12 June): “Race and Empire in Early Modern Theater”. A day earlier, on 11 June, “Race Before Race” made an announcement, shared here with the permission of TWB member and GOTH Advisory Board Member Noémie Ndiaye.

Regarding the statement, Noémie writes:

“[In] this (short) Letter from the Executive Board of “Race Before Race” which was published this morning […] we call on our colleagues to rethink the editorial practices that have long kept race scholars, especially BIPOC scholars, from getting published in the journals we all read. Please read it […] share it, and join the conversation. Thinking race and racially-articulated power relations starts in our own (academic) backyard.”

Before joining the TWB meeting, I attended the two-day conference Renaissance Academic Drama and the Popular Stage (11-12 June 2020). Unlike myself, most presenters adapted to rescheduling to MS Teams. OK, so we could no longer enjoy the great pleasure of watching The Edward’s Boys perform live at the University of St Andrews (or of sneaking off to beaches or bars). But the switch to online, attracting 90+ delegates, was achieved in brilliant style by the organizers, St Andrews doctoral students Elena Spinelli and Jon Gardner. Through their individual quality and strong sense of coherence, the keynotes, presentations and performances made for an exceptional event. Highlights of particular interest to GOTH members include talks by St Andrews doctoral students Orlagh Davies (on boarding school girls on the seventeenth-century stage) and Isabel Dollar (on changeable bodies in Bellamy’s Iphis & Lyly’s Gallathea) and by Jillian Luke (University of Edinburgh) on Roman masculinity on the English stage, Elisabeth Dutton (Université de Fribourg) introducing her Oxford student screening of Narcissus (you can access this delightfully engaging romp on her EDOX website) and performance clips illuminatingly presented by The Edward’s Boys’ director, Perry Mills, including Elisabeth Dutton’s production of John Redford’s Wit and Science, the whole of which I and other 2019 SiTM Conference delegates immensely enjoyed live in the Sala del Minor Consiglio of Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale (happy days!).

At the TWB Zoom meeting, working together and in small break-out groups, 47 core TWB members and guests, from 5 continents, spent 3pm-10pm GMT intensively exchanging ideas on teaching and researching early modern race and empire, with reference to pre-circulated writings including Urvashi Chakravarty’s landmark article “The renaissance of race and the future of early modern race studies” (English Literary Renaissance, 2019) and Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake, on Blackness and Being (2016). After officially concluding with a celebration of new TWB publications, including the group’s third collaborative essay collection (M A Katritzky & Pavel Drábek (eds), Transnational Connections in Early Modern Theatre, Manchester University Press, 2020) several of us continued informal discussions over a glass of wine. Not quite the Madrid tapas bar we had hoped for, but still an appreciated opportunity to renew longstanding friendships and to congratulate TWB member Janie Cole on getting Africana Studies accepted as a formal Renaissance Society of America discipline. On 13 June, Janie wrote:

“as founding Discipline Representative for the newly-established Africana Studies, I am soliciting proposals for panels, roundtables or individual papers in any discipline that explore Africa-related themes centering on the histories, politics, representations, and cultures of peoples of African origin in both Africa and the African diaspora, and their contributions to the cultural, political, historical, economic, or social spheres of the early modern period.”

Proposals for individual papers for the next RSA Annual Meeting (2021 Dublin or online, see RSA website) should be sent to Dr. Janie Cole by no later than Monday 5 August 2020, with the following materials: Individual paper titles (max 15 words); A 150-word maximum paper abstract; A 300-word max 1 page CV in paragraph form; Keywords (general, not specific); AV requirements.

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Clare Taylor awarded Paul Mellon Centre Mid-Career Fellowship

We’re very pleased to be able to congratulate Dr Clare Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Art History and a member of the GOTH Steering Committee, on her receipt of a prestigious Paul Mellon Centre Mid-Career Fellowship to work on her project ‘Gilt Leather Rooms: Decorating with Leather Hangings in Britain, c.1600–c.1800’. Clare describes the project’s scope as follows:

Embossed, gilt and painted leather is a material which both attracts and repels: on the one hand its glittering, tactile finish and complex and colourful patterns can be admired for their visual effects, on the other the idea of hanging animal skins on the wall seems at odds with twenty-first century environmental concerns. However, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries gilt leather hangings were at the centre of a global trade, a trade which involved networks around design, making and hanging. The skills and products of specialist tradesmen enabled gilt leather to rival other costly wall treatments, as well as protecting the surfaces of furniture, covering screens and upholstering seating.

This innovative research project will uncover the key role of gilt leather hangings and related objects in relation to issues of status in the creation of ‘Gilt Leather Rooms’. It will also throw new light on inter-materiality in the interior and on the relationship between printed sources, architectural structures and other wall decorations. It will do this by conducting the first full investigation of the people, places and objects associated with gilt leather rooms across the British Isles including not just archival and museum sources, but extant schemes in a wide range of buildings from Edinburgh to Somerset, Dublin to Gwynedd.

Detail of gilt leather from the ‘Cleves’ Room, Preston Manor, Brighton

At GOTH one of our specific areas of interest is textiles and textile work, so we’re really looking forward to hearing more about Clare’s project at some of our future events. Check the Events page on our website and follow us @OU_GOTH on Twitter to keep up to date.

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International Women’s Day 2020 – Shakespeare AND Cavendish

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020 (8th March), our director Dr Peg Katritzky appeared in this video discussing ShAC, ‘Shakespeare AND Cavendish’, a research strand within GOTH that seeks to restore female dramatists of the early modern period to their rightful place in the canon alongside Shakespeare. Watch the video to learn more about ShAC and the importance of women playwrights like Aphra Behn and Margaret Cavendish for the history of British drama.

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GOTH away-day and exhibitions round-up, Spring 2020

by Clare Taylor

**Please note that this blog post was written before the current global outbreak of COVID-19. Please check with individual museums and galleries before attempting to visit any of the exhibitions below**

GOTH holds an annual awayday. Last year we visited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire to examine the contributions of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (better known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’) through her architecture and design projects, textile work and correspondence. This year we are picking up the textiles theme again in relation to gender and otherness at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London’s South Kensington, examining the treatments of the wrapped body within different global traditions. We’ll be focusing on the upcoming exhibition ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ (opens 29 Feb), with a Curator’s introduction before we view the show.

Together with Dr Ursula Rothe, Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies, we will also view representations of dress in classical sculpture, while I will be picking out examples in the museum’s fashion, British and South Asian galleries. If you want a sneak preview check out the Ossie Clark/Celia Birtwell garment I wrote about as one of the OU’s Academic Consultants for the ‘Secrets of the Museum’ interactive.

***UPDATE***: V&A Curator Anna Jackson has made a brilliant series of virtual curator tours of the Kimono exhibition, which are available to view on YouTube.

I’m also including a list of current/upcoming shows that might be of interest to GOTH readers:

London

Unbound: Visionary Women collecting Textiles until 19 April

If you don’t know it 2, Temple Place is a small treat close to Somerset House. And it’s free! This spring it’s housing a show foregrounding the work of women as textile collectors, including not only the pattern designer Enid Marx (whom I have written about for our Art History MA, A844), but also lesser-known women such as Olive Matthews, whose collection features in Chertsey Museum, Surrey.

Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media ends 26 April

Tucked away on Brunswick Square, The Foundling Museum’s exhibition (curated by Karen Hearn) probes the representation of the pregnant body through clothing, photography, painting and clothing.

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography: 20 February-17 May

Will examine complex representation of masculinity through film and photography from the 1960s to the present day.

Aubrey Beardsley, Tate Britain: 4 March-25 May

A rare chance to examine Beardsley’s work as a draughtsman and book illustrator. It’s the first major show of his work in the UK for 50 years, since the previous heyday of his popularity as part of the taste for Art Nouveau kicked off by the V&A show of 1966.

Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things, National Portrait Gallery, London: 12 March-7 June

Focuses on visual, literary and film culture in 1920s and 1930s – and a chance to view the NPG’s permanent collections (free) before it closes for 3 years from summer!

And outside London:

Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries, Pallant House, Chichester till 23 February

Pallant House is a stone’s throw from Chichester train station and has been carving out a niche re-evaluating modern British art and design in recent years. Their latest show focuses on the painter Jessica Dismorr (1885-1939) and her and her contemporaries’ (such as Winifred Nicholson) links to modernist literature and radical politics.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy years 1982-94, Holburne, Bath till 25 May

Reach the Holburne by train to Bath, and reflect on Grayson Perry’s early work, radical both in subject matter and in his choice of painted ceramics and sculpture. If you miss the show in Bath it travels on to York Art Gallery (12 June to 20 September 2020) and then the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich (October 2020 to February 2021).

Fabric: Touch and Identity, Compton Verney, Warwickshire 14 March-14 June

Based around the project ‘The Erotic Cloth’, this show will examine the role of dress and textiles in art, design, fashion, film and dance. While you are at Compton Verney you can also nip up to the top floor and see the folk art collected by Enid Marx with the historian Margaret Lambert.

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The first GOTH Networking Workshop

On 30th January 2020, GOTH held its first critical reading group and networking workshop in collaboration with the OU’s Health and Wellbeing PRA (Priority Research Area). The purpose of the day was to give members of GOTH and Health and Wellbeing an opportunity to meet each other and discuss current research, funding strategies, and recent publications, as well as joining in a critical discussion.

We began with a critical reading group on the subject of Feminism and Nationalism, led by GOTH Advisory Board member and Professor of Literature and Cultural History, Suman Gupta. Professor Gupta provided the group with two readings: Lois A. West’s chapter ‘Nation’ in the 2005 Blackwell Companion to Gender Studies, and the introduction to Sara R. Farris’ 2017 book In the Name of Women’s Rights: the Rise of Femonationalism. Discussion focused particularly on the latter contribution, as participants explored the intersections of feminist thought and anti-immigrant sentiment in additional contexts beyond those pointed out by Farris.

Workshop participants enjoying the networking lunch.

The reading group was followed by a networking lunch, where participants were able to meet each other informally and begin to learn about each other’s work. This was compounded in the session after lunch, a ‘lightning’ networking session during which each participant spoke for 2-3 minutes about their research interests and past and current work relevant to the group.

We then heard two short papers from GOTH members. The first speaker, Kim Pratt, a PhD student in Classical Studies, told us about her recent experience giving a talk about Classics in a prison in Staffordshire. Kim drew attention to the positive effect that such events, and studying in general, can have on prisoners. You can read more about Kim’s experience on the OU Classical Studies blog. The second speaker, Sally Blackburn-Daniels, a postdoctoral researcher in English, spoke to us about her work on Vernon Lee and a new production of Lee’s ‘Ballet of the Nations’, an allegorical satire about World War I. She also discussed Lee’s interest in anthropology and incorporation of element inspired by this interest in the original ballet.

Sally Blackburn-Daniels speaking about Vernon Lee.

The final session of the day was a panel on research funding, led by Dr Shaf Towheed of English and Gaynor Henry-Edwards of Health and Wellbeing. The panel presented useful information on approaches to funding and how to build a strategy around funding applications, as well as highlighting a number of funders that have current or open calls for applications for which participants in the workshop may be eligible to apply.

The workshop was a great opportunity for researchers from different areas of the university to get to know each other’s work and make useful connections for future projects. GOTH hopes to repeat these networking events on a yearly basis, in order to maintain a strong community of like-minded researchers across the OU and beyond.

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