I am a Senior Lecturer in English and Gender Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. I have research interests in literature and the histories of gender and sexuality, cultural and critical theory, sexology, translation, violence, and queer, lesbian and feminist writing and graphic fiction.
My first books have explored the gendered emergence of a modern concept of sexuality. By examining a wide range of texts and contexts – including fiction, sexological and medical literature and newspaper responses to these works – I have tracked the development of sexual ideas and politics across disciplinary, linguistic and cultural contexts, resulting in two books: the anthology of texts, Women and Cross-Dressing 1800-1930s 3 vols (Routledge, 2006), and the monograph, English Literary Sexology, 1860-1930 (Palgrave 2009). Identifying how a modern understanding of sexuality was produced and popularised, the research has revealed that German sexological ideas migrated in gendered ways into English literary culture. These findings in turn offer new insights into the complex relationship between modern lesbian, gay and feminist fiction, history and politics.
The research on sexology has sparked my interest in ‘lost’ and ‘hidden’ archives, and in the relationship between cultural representation, discourse, and everyday experience. The interdisciplinary collection of essays Queer 1950s: Rethinking Sexuality in the Postwar Years (Palgrave 2012, co-edited with Matt Cook) brings together essays on sexuality in Britain, Finland, France, Germany and New Zealand and in so doing reassess what we (think we) know about this difficult, critically largely overlooked decade shaped by repressive sexual politics, but also the beginnings of resistance and rebellion.
That sexuality and modernity are best understood in global perspective is demonstrated by the edited collection Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters Across the Modern World ( Temple University Press, 2015). Inspired by a Wellcome Trust funded symposium I organised in 2012, it provides the first study of the coeval emergence of modern sexual debates in Europe, Asia, Peru and the Middle East. It brings together literary critics, historians and cultural critics to show that there existed many formal and informal network of exchange by which people, ideas and feelings travelled around the modern world.
My current AHRC-funded project, A Violent World of Difference: Magnus Hirschfeld and Queer Modernity, builds on my previous research but also takes it into a completely new direction by asking what an archive of texts and objects can tell us about the felt realities of people in the past. It turns to the work and reception of the influential physician and activist Hirschfeld to examine how persecution, violence and death affected the development of modern queer culture. The blog posts included here are inspired by the thinking and research for this book.
In addition, I have research interests in contemporary fiction and graphic narratives by women. I recently co-edited with Churnjeet Mahn a special issue on ‘Transnational Lesbian Cultures‘, Journal of Lesbian Studies Vol.18, No 3 (2014), and co-organized with artist and curator Sarah Lightman an international symposium on Jewish Women and comics, Graphic Details: Communities of Experience. Together with Sarah and Andrea Greenbaum I editing a special issue on ‘Comics by Jewish Women’, which will be published in Studies in Comics Vol.6, No. 2 (2015).
Follow me on Twitter @Heike_Bauer and @QueerModernity