Dylan Rowen

In March of 2020, I started my Cultural Studies PhD candidature in the School of Culture and Communication, under the International Research Training Group joint collaboration Minor Cosmopolitanisms with the University of Potsdam, Germany.

In 2019, I was awarded a Graduate Diploma in Art History after completing my Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in English at the University of Adelaide. I examined literary modernism, queerness, gendered spatial topographies, and LGBT identity in early twentieth-century cultural artefacts and fiction. I plan on extending my work in this field further through my studies at the University of Melbourne and the University of Potsdam.

I have presented some of my research on queer textual embodiment and sexuality at a handful of conferences such as “Queer Legacies, New Solidarities” and the “Gender, Sex, & Sexualities Postgraduate + ECR Conference.” I have been a featured writer and panellist, and workshopped my writing with emerging poets and writers at Writers SA. I have been a subeditor at The University of Adelaide’s student magazine On Dit and was the co-founder and president of The Adelaide University Literature Club, through which I organised literary events and lectures, since its formation in 2016.

I was born and raised on Kaurna Land, and I now write and reside on the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation.

Research Project Title: The Queer Modernist Novel: Experimentations in Bodily Desire and Textual Aesthetics

Research Project Summary: My PhD research analyses modernism’s encountering moments with queer identities and non-heterosexual subjects within experimental fiction, primarily from a select few novels produced in the interwar period. Queerness in modernist texts is often masked and hidden by both formal—and informal—experimentation that accompanies the unconscious (de)representation of sexuality that such texts produce. My thesis will examine transgressive modernist textual practices in response to fictional representations of queer sites of nonnormative, or “slippery” desire within city/urban spaces such as bars, nightclubs, and alleyways. More specifically, it examines the queer fictional worlds represented during the period of the 1930s, referred to as the “Pansy Craze.”

Modernist techniques such as stream-of-consciousness allow us glimpses into how queer erotic entanglements and fragmented desires are performed in modernity. Queer-coded argot and illegibility within modernist experimental writing can provide, I argue, fruitful avenues and laneways where deviant sexualities are performed, tolerated, and even celebrated. The rise of modernism as a literary and aesthetic practice also coincided with the emergence of sexual identities and sites where these identities could manifest and engender active agencies. My project examines how LGBT bodies are (de)represented (or indeed, unrepresentable) in early twentieth century ‘queer’ novels to locate a structure within the disjointed trajectory of the ‘homosexual’ tradition. Through a sustained examination of transgender, queer, and nonbinary subjectivity in modernist fiction, I hope to disrupt any teleological assumptions about queer literary history. Queer narrative desire is, by its very nature, non-linear, experimental, and unable to be easily deciphered.

At present, the novels examined will include Strange Brother (1931) by Blair Niles, Twilight Men (1931) by André Tellier, A Scarlet Pansy (1932) by Robert Scully, and The Young and Evil (1933) co-written by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler. These texts all present—to some extent and to varying success—an unstable, complicated construction of gender and sexuality due to the presence of the de-gendered “pansy” in these narratives. The figure of the “pansy” occupies a queer space in the regulation and construction of the homosexual/heterosexual divide, and its very nature complicates any linear understanding of modernity’s binary thrust towards linear progression. These queer writers engage with, and write about, moments of cruising, cross-dressing, drag, the legacies of sexology, the intersections of race and class with sexuality, transgender subjectivity, transnationalism and movements of culture, prostitution, sites of urban “slumming,” queer enclaves, political dissidents, able-bodied and disabled persons, all within—subconsciously or not—late modernism. These inversions and queer moments in time will be examined alongside new methodologies in modernist and queer studies, together with close-reading practices that will prioritise an innovative approach to reading queerness within modernity and inside the archive.

Project Duration: 2020-2023

Supervisors: The University of Melbourne: Professor Natalya Lusty and Dr Sarah Balkin

Home University: The University of Melbourne
Host University: The University of Potsdam

Brittany Craig

In 2016, I completed my Bachelor of Arts (with a double major in English Literature & Theatre and Creative Writing) with First Class Honours at the University of Melbourne. During this time, I was one of two artists on a panel entitled ‘The Early Words: Writing Trauma’ at Melbourne’s annual Emerging Writers’ Festival.

In 2018, I completed my Honours (First Class) in English Literature & Theatre at the University of Melbourne. My thesis explored Mina Loy’s poetry, with a specific focus on its relationship to feminist politics and the Italian Futurist movement. This dissertation was awarded The Bowen Prize, awarded annually to the student who has submitted the best essay or thesis on a subject in the field of British literature or British history. I was also admitted to the Dean’s Honours list for the third time (previously in 2015 and 2016). In 2020 I joined the IRTG Minor Cosmopolitans.

Research Project Title:

The Cutting Edge: Experimental Aesthetics and Gendered Bodies in the Artistic Practices of Annette Messager, Rei Kawakubo and Lisa Robertson

Research Project Summary:

This PhD dissertation examines the relationship between experimental aesthetics and the gendered body in the work of three practitioners working across different artistic fields: Annette Messager (visual arts), Rei Kawakubo (fashion design) and Lisa Robertson (literature). These artists reimagine the gendered body in unorthodox ways through artistic methods that are innovative and unconventional. I address their work from a feminist standpoint, that is, with attention to the role that gender plays in our conceptions of creativity, representation and aesthetic value. This position assumes that the works of Messager, Kawakubo and Robertson are not only significant because of their innovation of form, but because they have important socio-political implications with respect to the body, gender and sexuality.

Research Interests: Modernist and Contemporary Art and Literature, Avant-garde and Experimental Aesthetics, Gender Studies, The Body, Feminism

Project Duration: 2020 – 2023

Supervisors: Prof. Natalya Lusty, and Dr. Hannah McCann (UoM), Prof. Anja Schwarz (Potsdam)

Home University: The University of Melbourne

Host University: University of Potsdam

Analysing fatness: how fatness is perceived in different Western contexts

This project is focused on the way ideas around embodiment are constructed and enforced across the western world. From the neoliberal initiatives that classify fatness as a failure to responsibly manage our body machines, to the anti-black roots of fatphobia, to the particular stress the beauty industry places upon women’s bodies, fatness sits at the intersection of multiple identities, a fact that is completely ignored in current medicalised discussions about ‘obesity’.

This thesis examines popular culture as a site in which different socio-culturally embodied experiences of fatness are crafted, negotiated and tinkered with. Rather than considering the West as a homogeneous cultural site, this project complicates its topography by comparing and contrasting two different cases, both of which are considered part of the West – but with profoundly different histories: the United States and Greece. While the US is considered the center of Western production, Greece has a more complicated positionality. On one hand, a glorious past, cradle of democracy and precursor to the Enlightenment. On the other, a shabby present, financially mismanaged and with an ambiguous cultural connection to the East given its four centuries under Ottoman occupation.

While one could easily assign the United States as the influencer and Greece as the receiver, under minor cosmopolitanisms one can examine and trace how ancient Greece has influenced current body politics in the USA, and how a US-centric understanding of ancient Greece has influenced the way modern Greeks view themselves. The purpose of this research is thus twofold: one, to employ the concept of fatness as a tool in order to critically examine the modern Greek national identity; and two to use modern greek culture in order to de-stabilize the idea that the experience and perception of fatness is uniform across the perceived ‘West’.

Hannah McCann, School of Culture and Communication. Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne

Prof Dr Anja Schwarz, The University of Potsdam