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Graduate Student Working Groups

Gender, Sexuality, and the Family


Organized by:

Chris Bischof (History), Matthew John-Phillips (English), and Sara Black (History).

Spring 2011 Update:

Under the direction of Chris Bischof (History), Matthew John-Phillips (English), and Sara Black (History), this newly-formed graduate group hosted seven events over the course of the semester. These events were attended by approximately twenty different graduate students representing history, English, and comparative literature with most students attending multiple events. Professors also attended several of these events and six of the seven events featured scholars from other universities.  These events facilitated formal and informal socialization and resulted in one case in a scholar invited to campus agreeing to be the outside reader for a graduate student’s dissertation.

The first event was a pizza social at which group members learned about each other’s work. In late February Professor Ellen Ross of Ramapo College visited campus to deliver our inaugural scholarly talk. Leading up to her visit, our group held a reading group meeting in which we discussed several chapters from her monograph, Love and Toil: Motherhood in Outcast London, 1870-1918. Her visit itself consisted of two events. First, she delivered a scholarly talk on the life and friendship of two women who, influenced by Franciscan ideology, gave up their family wealth to embark upon a life of voluntary poverty and philanthropic work in London’s slums. A lively discussion followed the talk and Professor Ross later wrote to thank everyone who attended the talk as it led her to rethink some ideas in turning the talk into a scholarly article. The second event with Professor Ross was a graduate student luncheon in which students discussed their own research. Professor Ross suggested some possible directions students might take their work and everyone that participated learned more about each other’s research.

We had an identical cluster of three events – reading group, scholarly talk, and luncheon workshop – when Professor Eleanor Hubbard of Princeton visited in late March. Her talk used court records to reconstruct how individual women negotiated the often-conflicting economic reality, gender ideals, and sexual codes of early-modern London. A recently-minted PhD and a new faculty member, Professor Hubbard shared her experiences from and tips about finishing a dissertation, going on the job market, and discussing your work in a way that interests scholars outside your own temporal, geographic, and thematic subfields. Our final event was a roundtable event on “Scholarship and Activism.” Six graduate students, most of whom worked on queer and gender history in the Anglo-American context, gave short talks about their research, their activism (very broadly defined), and how the two were related. Following these short talks we had a discussion between the panelists, the audience, and the roundtable guest, American Historical Association President Anthony Grafton.

Fall 2012 Update:

This year we look forward to continuing our interrogation of the relationship between constructions of gender, sexuality, and the family in British history and literature as well as the way in which British and imperial actors deployed these concepts to bolster and challenge particular definitions of the nation, empire, modernity, and other ideas. Building on our program of reading groups and invited speakers in 2011, this year the working group will host a series of workshops to constructively critique a wide range of in-progress works, from conference papers to dissertation chapters. The variety of chronological, methodological, and geographic perspectives brought to bear on a presented paper will both benefit the presenter and help the group to think about the themes of our working group within the field of British studies as a whole. We intend to host a conference in the Spring 2013 as the culmination of our working group’s meetings since Spring 2011.

We welcome all papers that fall even partially – or potentially – within the definitions of British studies and gender, sexuality, and the family. Anyone interested in participating in or presenting to this working group should email Chris Bischof at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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