The Lesbian Muse: 1880-1930 (provisional title)
Supervisors: Dr Marion Thain
My thesis focuses on the role of the muse in the poetry of Michael Field, Olive Custance, Amy Lowell and H.D. This research project represents the first full-length study of the muse in lesbian literature. I seek to demonstrate that the gendered artist/muse dynamic (traditionally the relationship between a male creator and a female muse) is key to understanding the complexities of nineteenth- and twentieth-century lesbian writing.
Utilising a range of literary and biographical sources, my thesis addresses the relationships between lesbian writers and their ‘muses’, beginning with the collaboration of Michael Field. Chapters highlight aspects of the muse’s cultural, historical and literary precedent, examining how Sappho’s fragments, Catholic doctrine, fin-de-siècle decadence, suffrage, the growing phenomenon of ‘celebrity’ and the discourses of sexology shaped understandings of the lesbian muse across a fifty-year period.
Prior to embarking on this project, I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Exeter and an MA in Sexual Dissidence in Literature and Culture at the University of Sussex. My undergraduate dissertation, in which I outlined a theory of ‘lesbian gothic’, won the Feminism and Women’s Studies Association Student Essay Prize and is published in the Journal of International Women’s Studies.
My current research is funded by a three year AHRC scholarship and is due to be completed in 2011. In terms of publications, my chapter on the connections between A. C. Swinburne and Amy Lowell is forthcoming in a future Swinburne collection (published by Manchester University Press).
In terms of additional academic responsibilities, I am the co-founder of ‘Roles’, a Gender and Sexuality Interdisciplinary Forum at the University of Birmingham. I am also member of the English Poetry Research Group here at Birmingham, and co-organised their first event. I am currently also involved in co-organising a new symposia series in Late-Victorian and Modernist literature and culture.