Category Archives: Gender and Sexuality

The Female Character and French Aristocracy in Edith Wharton’s ‘The Custom of the Country’ and ‘The Reef’

By Samantha Seto

In Edith Wharton’s American novels, the heroines are part of the French aristocratic milieu. The American expatriates, Undine Spragg and Anna Leath, are situated in France and characterized by attributes that suggest French influence through literary elements such as narration and dialogue in The Custom of the Country (1913) and The Reef (1912). Wharton reveals an implicit feminism in a patriarchal society and thematic marital relations drive the plot, which indicates the conventional role for women dedicated to the social traditions of the aristocracy. The French have their own code of manners in society, idealised aesthetic of female beauty, and their honour resides in the social expectations of probity. In my narratological analysis of character identity, French cultural norms and the common French aesthetic blends into the portrayal of the primary female characters. Wharton interweaves a French theme into the narratives which shape the portraits representing aristocratic women and particularly their romantic conflicts that arise at the turn of the century. In the novels, Wharton establishes heroines characterised by attributes that belong to the French aristocracy.

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2021 Ellen Craft Essay Prize Awarded to PhD Student Katie Arthur

By Professor Mark Turner, PGR Lead

It is a pleasure to announce to the KCL English community that the Scottish Association for the Study of America (SASA) has awarded the 2021 Ellen Craft Essay Prize to one of our PhD students, Katie Arthur, for her brilliant essay, ‘Arousing Disgust: Visceral Configurations of Obscenity through Literal, Literary, and Governmental Bodies in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1959)’.

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On dissent; or, learning how to say no

by Pavan Mano

PhD candidate Pavan Mano explores how the seeming reticence of Singapore’s biggest queer movement to openly challenge the status-quo is in fact its key organising strength.

Singapore can be a strange country in many ways. And one of those ways is how it projects an image of a modern, forward-looking metropolis whilst remaining home to a backward (albeit unenforced) law in the form of Section 377A – a legislative hangover from British coloniality – that criminalizes sex between men. Section 377A isn’t an anomaly in the Singaporean landscape – it’s merely the most visible symptom of the primacy of place that heterosexuality retains in the country. Which, amongst other things, means that there’s plenty of work for queer movements to do in terms of advocacy and activism. And one of these movements is Pink Dot.

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Jerome Caja’s ‘Cosmetic Miracles’ and ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ Drag in 1990s San Francisco

To celebrate the launch of the new Queer@King’s goes to Church series, in collaboration with KCL Chaplaincy, Victoria Carroll reflects on the sacrilegious artwork and drag performance of Jerome Caja (pronounced Chi-a), an important figure in the queer arts scene that flourished in early 1990s San Francisco.

Jerome Caja, The Last Hand Job (1993). Collection Anna van der Muelen.

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Queering the obscene: how the archives shaped my PhD

From books banned in Boston to films cut in Maryland: in the summer of 2019 PhD candidate Katie Arthur visited five archives in four US states to grapple with questions of queerness and obscenity in the censorship cases of author William S. Burroughs and filmmaker John Waters.

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