Upcoming Event: Transgender participation in Sport- informal seminar


26th May 5-6pm

ZZ 105, Matthew Arnold Building

Beth Jones, a PGR student in School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University, will be discussing her research with a presentation entitled ‘Physical activity and sport engagement within the transgender population’. In addition, Taylor Le Fin will present Switching Teams, a short film about their journey through gender transition in the world of Roller Derby.


PGR Work-in-Progress Seminar, 29th March

All are welcome to come and hear the diverse work in progress from 4 PhD students within the Gendered Lives research group.

29th March, 3-5 pm, MHL.0.07, downstairs in Martin Hall 

Amita Bhakta (Civil and Building Engineering), ‘Unveiling hidden experiences: Exploring the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Needs of Perimenopausal Women’.

Eleanor Dumbill (English), ‘Eliot and the Trollopes: The Relationships Between Nineteenth-Century Women Writers, their Male Publishers, and the Canon’.

Hannah Newman (Social Sciences), ‘Exploring Female Strength and Power: An Ethnography of Strongwoman’.

Eva Lippold (English), ‘Women in the Theatre: Gender and Comedy, 1760-1800′.

Lesbian Identities – The Gendered Lives Summer Research Seminar

Our summer research seminar welcomes Jana Funke from Exeter and Sarah Parker from Loughborough and focuses upon lesbian identity in the late Victorian and early twentieth-century periods. Abstracts are below and author bios below that. 

2-4 pm, Wednesday 3rd May2017, MHL.0.07, Martin Hall

Jana Funke (University of Exeter), ‘Sexual Modernism, Women’s Writing and Sexual Science: The Case of Bryher and Havelock Ellis’

Sexual science and modernist women’s writing have often been seen as related but oppositional projects: sexual science has been viewed as a field mainly populated by men who tried to classify human sexuality on the basis of biologically defined identity categories and reinforced gendered and heterosexist views of sexual behaviour. Modernist women’s writing, on the other hand, has been celebrated for troubling allegedly ‘normative’ sexual scientific understandings of gender and queering the very concept of sexual identity. Even scholars keen to stress the empowering potential of sexual science have put emphasis on the ways in which female modernists ‘reworked’ or ‘reappropriated’ ideas derived from sexual science, thus overlooking the very reasons why sexual science and modernist women’s writing could exist in productive dialogue in the first place.

This paper works against such antagonistic views by examining the intellectual exchange between Havelock Ellis, the most eminent British sexual scientist, and literary writer Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman). Bryher and Ellis first met in 1919 and developed a friendship that also involved Bryher’s life-long partner, the modernist poet and novelist H. D. Ellis introduced both Bryher and H. D. to recent medical understandings of cross-gender identification and same-sex desire, which fed into Bryher’s early autobiographical novels Development (1920) and Two Selves (1923). Rather than pointing to a one-directional model of influence in which medical views are interrogated and reclaimed by literary writers, the case of Havelock Ellis and Bryher opens up a more nuanced understanding of exchange across disciplinary and gendered boundaries. The paper introduces the concept of ‘sexual modernism’ to capture this dialogue and to work towards a new understanding of sexual science and female, lesbian or Sapphic, and queer modernisms.

Sarah Parker, ‘Looking Femme: Femininity, Sapphic self-fashioning and photographic masquerades, 1890-1920s’

The majority of scholarship on lesbian representation in literature and visual cultures of the late-Victorian and early twentieth-century has tended to focus on gender transgression, drawing on the theories of sexual inversion developed by sexologists such as Havelock Ellis and Kraft-Ebing (who wrote of ‘the masculine soul, heaving in the female bosom’).

This paper will instead look closely at the possibilities for recognising and reading lesbian (or as the subjects would describe it, Sapphic) femininities during this period. I will focus on three interconnected figures: Natalie Barney, Renée Vivien and Olive Custance, analysing their literary self-portraits (autobiography, roman à clef and poetry) and their playful engagement with photographic tableaux and masquerade. The question that unifies my paper is: what does it mean to look femme? This concern links to recent discussions regarding femme histories (see http://notchesblog.com/2017/02/16/femme-histories-roundtable-part-i/) and also connects to my wider project on photographical representations of the woman poet during this period.


Jana Funke is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities, based in the English Department at the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on modernist literature and culture, the history of sexuality, sexual science and medicine, and feminist studies and queer theory. Books include The World and Other Unpublished Works by Radclyffe Hall (MUP, 2016), and the co-edited volumes Sex, Gender and Time in Fiction and Culture (Palgrave, 2011) and Sculpture, Sexuality and History: Encounters in Literature, Culture and the Arts (forthcoming with Palgrave, 2018). In 2015, Jana was awarded a Wellcome Trust Joint Investigator Award to direct (together with Kate Fisher) a major five-year project on the cross-disciplinary history of sexual science. Jana is committed to making her research accessible to wider audiences and collaborating with non-academic publics. Public engagement and impact work includes the Transvengers project (led by Gendered Intelligence); various contributions to the Wellcome Collection’s Institute of Sexology Exhibition and its engagement programme, Sexology Season; and Clay & Diamond’s Orlando: The Queer Element project.

Sarah Parker is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her first monograph is The Lesbian Muse and Poetic Identity, 1889–1930 (2013). Her other publications include articles on Michael Field, Amy Levy, Djuna Barnes and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her most recent article is ‘Framing the Woman Poet: William Archer’s Poets of the Younger Generation (1902)’ in Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens (Autumn 2016).

Gendered Lives Mini-Profiles: Professor Nóra Séllei

Nóra Séllei is from Hungary, working for the Department of British Studies, Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Debrecen as a Professor of English, but she is also the founder of gender studies at the university, and the head of the Gender Studies Centre (http://ieas.unideb.hu/index.php?p=465&l=en). Apart from doing research and publishing several monographs, edited volumes and more than a hundred articles on Victorian and modernist women writers in English literature, she is particularly interested in gendered lives. In 2001, she published a monograph in Hungarian on autobiographical texts by twentieth-century women writers. The basic question posed in the monograph is how the female autobiographical subject is (self-)constructed in Virginia Woolf’s “A Sketch of the Past”, Gertrude Stein’s “Ada” and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Jean Rhys’ Smile Please, Mary McCarthy’s Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood, and in a text by a Hungarian modernist woman: Margit Kaffka. Some of these chapters, even if not in their entirety, are available in English too. In addition, she also published an article on Sylvia Plath’s highly autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, which was selected for republication for Janet McCann’s Critical Insights: The Bell Jar (Passadena, Cal.: Salem Press, 2012.) A further research article written by her is entitled “The Mother in Mourning as the Subject of Autobiography in Rosamond Lehmann’s The Swan in the Evening: Fragments of an Inner Life” that came out in Maternal Subjectivities, in the volume The Personal to the Political: Towards A New Theory of Maternal Narrative edited by Silvia Caporale and Andrea O’Reilly (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna UP, 2009). Her most recent publication in the area of life writing is in Hungarian, a long article (about 80.000 characters) on the war memoir (available in English: One Woman in the War) by a Hungarian woman writer, Alaine Polcz, where she basically tackles the issue of women’s victimisation in war, including rape.

In 2007, she gained an Andrew Mellon scholarship to the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where her research topic was life writing by women. From 2011 to 2013 she participated, as the leader of the Hungarian team, in an international, EU-funded Grundtvig project that was related to gendered lives: “Is Women’s Education (at) Risk”, which asked – and tried to answer – questions relating to the market value of degrees gained by women, and the Hungarian team’s research was based on twelve in-depth interviews: gendered live narratives by women with an arts degree.

She is not only a scholar, but also the Hungarian translator of Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being and Three Guineas, and Jean Rhys’s Smile, Please.

You can see her full profile at http://ieas.unideb.hu/sellei (click on the English language sign at the top).


Trans Matters – GLRC Spring Research Seminar Summary

Our spring research seminar was dedicated to hearing about trans research in the UK and Dr Katherine Johnson (University of Brighton) presented her research-in-progress entitled ‘Trans Youth: What Matters?’

Katherine began her presentation by identifying her research beginnings, stating her focus on lived experiences, gender dysoprhia, trans youth health, violence and global activism. The national and global focus on trans health and violence against people, particularly trans women, set the context of the work. Katherine identified that at a National level there is an unprecedented number of referrals to NHS Gender Identity Services (50 in 2007/8, 1419 in 2015/16) and there is concern about their ability to cope with this.

 Existing literature focuses on the voices of parents rather their offspring and Katherine’s work addresses this gap in the research by focusing on trans youths themselves. The work documents the value of a community-based organisation and helps them evidence their importance to obtain funding as current budgets are being slashed by up to 80%. The research uses a range of creative-arts based methods in collaboration with a trans youth group. The group provides a place for young people to meet: it’s a youth group for those who are questioning their sexuality, and 60% of users are trans.

A range of participatory, creative, and visual methods are used by Katherine to facilitate group discussions among trans youth. These techniques are more effective than semi-structured interviews because young people can lack of confidence in voicing their experiences. Using visual methods such as photovoice changes the nature of the research process and shifts the focus onto the agency and voice of the young person and generates youth-focused understandings of experience, social exclusion, and mental health.

The methods of participatory creative arts research help participants to re-story and challenge dominant representations of trans lives, such as the assumption that trans people hate their bodies, which is not true for all. The research is on-going through themed discussions which ask participants to reflect upon: how group-users value the group; how the group works as a community; the difficulties and restrictions of gender expression and living in a binary world; and gender dysphoria.

 So far, the research has highlighted the role of community support in providing a sense of safety, acceptance, friendship, fun and support. The group plays a vital role in facilitating peer support and creating a sense of belonging. What is emerging for Katherine’s research is a rich picture of trans and non-binary identities and how they are expressed by young trans people.