Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities
2010—2011 Forum on Virtuality
Public Lives, Intimate Archives: Queer Biographical Practices in British Women's Writing, 1928-1978
My dissertation suggests that five modernist women writers—Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Edith Sitwell, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Hope Mirrlees—take up the historically conservative genre of biography in order to critique the marginalization of non-normative genders and sexualities in traditional biographical histories. If biography investigates, charts, records, and memorializes individual lives, then the formal structure and generic conventions of biography are directly related to the types and ways of life that are understood as normal—or even possible—for future readers. For each of these writers, experiments in biography signal moments of generic activism in which they question the changing boundaries of the memorable—if neither traditionally narratable nor necessarily imitable—life story. This dissertation illuminates the ways in which the textual politics of these interventions in modernist biography are also sexual politics.