Graduate Research Seminars Lent 2013
This term's Graduate Research Seminars are dedicated to the theme of “Art & Sexuality” and begin on Wednesday, 23 January 2013. The seminar series will feature seven guest lectures which discuss intersections between visual culture and the construction and/or reflection of sexual and gendered identities. Topics range from depictions of sexuality and gender in medieval manuscript illumination, to erotic art and voyeurism in Renaissance Italy, to the avant-gardist embrace of perversion, Sadean desire and 'dissident' sexualities in Surrealist and post-Surrealist practice.
Please find below details of the talks, which will be held every Wednesday of Lent term at 5pm in the History of Art Graduate Centre, 4a Trumpington Street. They will be followed by a short Q&A session and informal drinks and snacks. All are welcome to attend.
23 January 2013
Dr Satish Padiyar (The Courtauld Institute of Art)
Cézanne’s Homosocial World, from the Bathers to the Cardplayers
Dr Satish Padiyar is Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century art at the Courtauld Institute in London. Recent areas of work include the history of sculpture, European neoclassical painting, the relation between art and philosophy, and critical theoretical approaches to the history of art. An interest in rethinking European neoclassical painting and sculpture with queer, feminist, psychoanalytic and Marxist theory culminated in his book Chains. David, Canova, and the Fall of the Public Hero in Postrevolutionary France (2007). The book offers a fresh account of European Neoclassicisms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, by attending to questions about the male body, subjectivity, Kantian aesthetics, and sexuality. He is currently researching and preparing a book on the senses of freedom, or ‘free agency’, in European modern art, from Fragonard to Twombly, c. 1750 – 1960, which will include chapters on the art of David, Courbet, Cézanne and Picasso. In 2005, Satish worked as chief curator of the exhibition The Triumph of Eros: Art and Seduction in 18th-Century France which was on show in the Hermitage Rooms, London.
The games art historians and art writers have played with the name ‘Cézanne’ are legion and yet inexhaustible: Cézanne has succeeded in keeping us still guessing. This is also the case with the theme of sex and sexual identity: for this artist they were open-ended and always in a state of flux. Between the fleshy worlds of Cézanne’s male bather series and the insistently male enclave world of smokers and card players there is both a structural and a political relationship. In this paper, I want to revisit the subject of the poetics of homoerotic desire within the notionally ‘pure’ modernist oeuvre of Cézanne; and to think his Smokers and Cardplayers paintings as offering a homoerotic image of ‘the good’. Politically, it is the post-Second World War political philosophy and phenomenology of Hannah Arendt (beyond that of Merleau-Ponty) that might open out a new understanding of what was at stake in the building of a homosocial enclave within Cézanne’s worldly canvases.
David Lomas (University of Manchester)
Perverse Implantations: Surrealism’s Language of Flowers
David Lomas is Professor of Art History at the University of Manchester and co-director of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies. His books include The Haunted Self: Surrealism, Psychoanalysis and Subjectivity (Yale UP, 2000) and Simulating the Marvellous: Psychological Medicine, Surrealism, Postmodernism (Manchester UP, 2013). He curated the exhibitions Subversive Spaces: Surrealism and Contemporary Art (2009) at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, and Narcissus Reflected (2011) at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. Narcissus Reflected was one of the outcomes of an AHRC-funded project on Surrealism and sexuality.
My paper will explore the hypothesis that botany post-Linnaeus is a realm in which a notion of sexuality as polymorphous is elaborated that, I shall argue, percolates down to the twentieth century and into the visual culture of Surrealism and beyond. Kant, in the “Analytic of the Beautiful,” set aside the reproductive function of flowers in order to extol them as an instance of free beauty. For Surrealist and other more contemporary artists, by contrast, botany is a route to the de-sublimatory release of a polymorphous (or queer) sexuality. Botanical imagery occurs frequently in the work of the female Surrealist artists, hardly surprisingly given the gendered connotations of flower painting. For such artists, Kingdom of Flora offered a model for the overcoming of sexual dimorphism. My paper will consider the repercussions of Georges Bataille’s incendiary essay, “A Language of Flowers”; in particular, his observation that “there are plants so shady that one is tempted to attribute to them the most troubling human perversions.” Among more recent instances of a trend towards anti-formalist appropriations of botanical imagery, I shall look at Helen Chadwick’s “Piss Flowers” (1991-92) that are explicit in their invocation of Linnaeus as well as of an infantile polymorphous eroticism. My talk will conclude with the performance artist Lee Adams who has found a productive point of reference in Surrealism’s language of flowers that resonates with queer politics in a post-AIDS era.
Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange (University of Birmingham)
Re-Presenting Emilia for a Queen: Text and Image in Anne de Graville's “Beau roman”
Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange is Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses mainly on the art and culture of the medieval and early modern periods (c. 1350-1600) with a particular emphasis on illuminated manuscripts and on questions of gender in visual culture. In 2008, she published Holy Motherhood: Gender, Dynasty and Visual Culture in the Late Middle Ages (MUP, 2008) which won the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship’s First Book Prize in 2010. This study of maternal imagery in books of hours owned by aristocratic women and its relationship to the material culture of childbearing has led to other articles on the patronage of women at the French court, including Anne of Brittany, Anne of France, and Claude of France. Elizabeth is also interested in broader questions of gender and sexuality in the medieval and early modern periods and recently co-edited two collections of essays, Re-Presenting Medieval Genders and Sexualities: Construction, Transformation (Ashgate, 2011) with Alison More, and Le mécénat féminin en France et en Bourgogne, XIVe-XVIe (a special issue of Le Moyen Age journal, 2011) with Laure Fagnart.
Around 1520, at the behest of Queen Claude of France, Anne de Graville produced a reworking of Boccaccio's Teseida entitled Le Beau roman des deux amants Palamon et Arcita et de la belle et sage Emilia. Dismissed in the early twentieth century as a tale to charm sentimental ladies, Anne's Beau roman has more recently been shown to be a subtle reworking of the Teseida, probably from an earlier French prose version, which engages with contemporary literary trends such as the love epistle and the querelle des femmes. Like Christine de Pizan some hundred years earlier, Anne de Graville adapted her source text to make it appealing to female readers at the French court, offering them a lesson in how women should conduct themselves in love and marriage. This paper explores de Graville's Beau roman as a learned and pro-feminine story that sought to counter the negative views of women that were being debated in the on-going querelle. It draws in particular on the illuminated dedication copy made for Claude of France (Paris, Arsenal, MS 5116) to show how the material nature of the manuscript - including its images and other texts - contribute to the message that Anne de Graville was promoting to her female, courtly, audience.
Dr Dorothy Rowe (University of Bristol)
The Graphic Experience of War: Heinrich Hoerle’s “Krüppelmappe” (1920)
Dorothy Rowe is Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Bristol and leader of the Transnational Modernisms Research Cluster. Her publications include the 2003 monograph Representing Berlin: Sexuality and the City in Imperial and Weimar Germany and she is currently editing a new book entitled German Expressionism: Der Blaue Reiter and its Legacies. Dorothy also works on the exhibition project German Expressionism: The Cult of Youth, planned for display in London and Edinburgh in 2016. She has also recently held a two year Leverhulme Research Fellowship in which she researched women artists and photographers in Weimar Germany. Her forthcoming book After Dada: Martha Hegemann and the Cologne Avant-garde (MUP, 2013) results from that research. New research for a further book entitled Weimar Women: Photography and Modernity continues those interests as does her membership of the academic network on 'Weimar Photography' hosted by the University of Durham.
At the end of 1918 Heinrich Hoerle (1895-1936), who had received a second class iron cross after serving in the field artillery on the Western front, returned to his native town of Cologne. Like so many young artists of his generation, Hoerle was barely 19 when he went to war and he quickly became disillusioned by its horrors. He had come back a changed man, for whom art’s sole purpose could now only be in the service of revolution. Initially a member of Cologne Dada, by 1920 he had joined ‘the New Cologne Painting School,’ a self-styled secession from Dada, also known as ‘Gruppe Stupid’. It was within this context that he produced his first full scale response to the aftermath of war, Die Krüppelmappe (The Cripples Portfolio). The Cripples Portfolio consists of twelve delicately executed lithographs calling for ‘Help for the Crippled’ (Helft dem Kruppel) and drawing attention to the plight of the individual war-wounded soldiers seeking to re-integrate themselves into a society and an economy unable and unwilling to properly support them after their bitter defeat in the First World War. Maimed and wounded veterans are shown in different roles: seeking comfort from loved ones; begging on the streets; haunted by missing limbs, mired in nightmares of exaggerated sexual fantasies; engulfed in both physical and psychological loss and received with fear and horror by those around them. The portfolio was published by Hoerle’s SelbstVerlag (Self Press, later renamed Schloemilch Verlag) and it preceded Otto Dix’s better known graphic response to the First World War, Der Krieg, by four years. This paper seeks to explore how Hoerle’s experiences of war are mediated through his graphic visual responses to it in Die Krüppelmappe, to what extent individual experience is used for radical political effect.
Dr Robert Mills (University College London)
Orpheus Then and Now: Looking/Feeling Backward
Dr Robert Mills is University Lecturer in Medieval Art at University College London. His publications include Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure and Punishment in Medieval Culture (2005), a book which developed out of his PhD thesis at the University of Cambridge. Bob has longstanding interests in gender and sexuality, both as historical phenomena and critical categories. He has published a number of chapters and articles in this field, and he contributed the medieval section to A Gay History of Britain (2007). Feminist theory, queer studies and LGBT cultural history have always exerted a shaping influence on his research and he recently completed a monograph called Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages, a book which explores the relationship between sodomy and motifs of vision and visibility in medieval culture, on the one hand, and those categories we today call ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality,’ on the other.
The sense of sight is crucial to the denouement of the Orpheus myth: the hero’s inability to rescue Eurydice in the underworld is associated, in the most influential accounts, with a forbidden backward glance. But Ovid’s Metamorphoses supplies further details about Orpheus’ biography following this fatal act of retrospection: the hero subsequently turns his desire from his beloved wife to ‘tender’ males. In this paper, I stage a dialogue between medieval and modern responses to Orpheus’ pederastic turn as narrated by Ovid. How
did the motif of Orphic pederasty get taken up by some clerical writers and artists in the Middle Ages? Why has the motif receded into oblivion in contemporary reflections on the myth – even when, in some instances, Orpheus is appropriated as a representative of ‘queer’ historical experience and affect? Focusing especially on illustrations of the legend
in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century manuscript illuminations and woodcuts, I will also raise questions concerning role of backwardness and backward looking in the history of sexuality.
Dr Jill Burke (University of Edinburgh)
Peering through Cracks: Erotic Art and the Voyeur in Renaissance Italy
Dr Jill Burke is a specialist in Italian Renaissance visual culture. Her first book, Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence, was published in 2004, and was widely reviewed as a major contribution towards the understanding of renaissance art patronage. Jill was a Philip Leverhulme Prize holder, 2009-11, in recognition of her "outstanding" contributions to Art History. She previously held research fellowships in the AHRC Court Culture in Early Modern Rome project, the Dutch Institute for Art History in Florence and the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence (Villa I Tatti). She helped to found, and was the first Research Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and a founder member of the Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She is currently in the last stages of preparing her forthcoming monograph The Italian Renaissance Nude: Nakedness in Art and Life 1400-1530 - a book about the social understanding of nakedness and the development of the artistic nude in renaissance Italy.
Italian renaissance erotic writing is full of salacious peering through holes in walls, cracks in floorboards and happening across naked bathing women. In a culture where couples were asked never to see each other unclothed by church authorities, and where the undershirt (camicia) was a ubiquitous - and rarely removed - garment, gazing upon a naked woman was transgressive, and gained a potent erotic charge in itself. How does this affect our understanding of renaissance visual culture, and in particular the proliferation of images of the naked female form in the early sixteenth century? Focussing on the burgeoning sexual literature of the sixteenth century, the novel use of female models in life drawing, and the sudden rise of the satyr as an artistic subject, I will discuss the importance of voyeurism in understanding the Renaissance female nude.
6 March 2013
Imma Ramos (University of Cambridge)
Tainted Love: Menstrual Taboo and Iconography at Kamakhya Temple (India)
Imma Ramos completed her BA at King's College, Cambridge in 2010. She subsequently received a Pembroke College Lander scholarship for her MPhil studies, graduating with a mark of distinction in 2011. Her current PhD research, funded by the Cambridge Home and EU Scholarship Scheme (CHESS), explores the importance of art, ritual, myth, sacred geography and iconography in places of worship consecrated to the Hindu goddess Shakti, known as Shakti Pithas: Kalighat and Tarapith in West Bengal and Kamakhya in Assam. These are three of many temple complexes which were built on sites where parts of the goddess’s body fell, scattered across the subcontinent.
According to a myth of cosmic dismemberment, the Hindu goddess Sati’s yoni or vulva is said to have fallen from the heavens and been enshrined in Kamarupa in Assam, where it is worshipped as Kamakhya. The significance of the aniconic yoni (a fissure in a large rock) is articulated through an unstudied series of sculptures charged with Tantric fertility and ‘apotropaic’ imagery. In particular this paper will examine a sculpture depicting a squatting female figure displaying her vulva. Today her pudendum is anointed by devotees with red vermillion suggesting menstrual blood, a substance which is considered to be powerfully potent but also highly polluting. In order to understand the underlying significance of the figure, this paper will explore the place of menstruation in Hindu culture and religious practice, with special reference to the Ambuvaci Mela festival dedicated to Kamakhya’s annual menstruation (June-July).