Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities
2009—2010 Forum on Connections
Sex, Sociality, and Suicide: Queer Female Subjectivities in Medical Science and Homosexual Literature in Germany and Austria 1860-1933
My project draws from my dissertation, which traces the emergence of the lesbian identity category in modernity. Examining a range of Austro-German cultural productions, I uncover a fraught struggle between the mainstream scientific world and marginalized lesbian literary cultures. Popular medical sexological discourse sought to taxonomize and control lesbian identity for the modern episteme. Female authors, conversely, depicted sexually deviant women who reject nomenclature and forge agency through negative, anti-social means: turning inward and even committing suicide. Instead of dismissing this negativity, I argue that it signifies positively within these texts. My dissertation’s analysis of modern sexuality zooms in on deeply personal questions concerning what it means to connect over issues of sexual identity, what it means for a scientific expert to group and connect individuals according to specific traits, as well as how and why individuals disconnected from mainstream sexual paradigms and how they reconnected in search for agency.