The Gender and Authority Network, which is supported by the Balliol Interdisciplinary Institute and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), aims to explore and question received notions of social and cultural authority, specifically as they intersect with issues of gender. Provoked initially by the idea of the canon, ‘the list of works considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality’ (OED), we wish to consider three points: how do social and gender norms determine ‘quality’? How permanent is authority? What is ‘work’? We propose an expansive definition of work that includes all forms of cultural production, individual or collaborative. We also seek to examine spaces in which gender, as it intersects with other vectors of power, has led to the marginalisation of intellectual and artistic creation or labour. This project will bring together participants from disciplines across the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Who we are:
Adele Bardazzi gained a first class honours degree in English and Italian at Royal Holloway University of London in 2013 (also winning the Harrison Award for that year). She went on to study at Christ Church, University of Oxford for a D.Phil. in Medieval and Modern Languages under the supervision of Prof. Emmanuela Tandello. Her doctoral research explores the multiple tensions between absence and presence in the poetry of Eugenio Montale and aims to explore the nature of some of his ‘care ombre’ [beloved shadows]. More specifically, she is interested in the many absent-present female figures in Montale’s poetry and, more broadly, in the figure of the feminine poetic beloved in lyric poetry. Other interests include feminist and queer theory, and the thought of Michel Foucault, to which one of her undergraduate dissertations was devoted.
David Bowe completed his D.Phil. in ‘dialogic models of conversion and self-representation in medieval Italian poetry’ at St Hilda’s College, Oxford under the supervision of Prof. Manuele Gragnolati in June 2014. Since then he has held a visiting post-doctoral fellowship at the Humanities Research Institute of the University of Leeds and a stipendiary lectureship at Balliol College, Oxford. His current project focusses on the representation of women’s voice (real and fictitious) in the literature of late medieval Italy, with a particular focus on the mode of the tenzone (poetic dialogue) as locus for gendered ‘speech’. Recent publications include ‘Text, Artefact and the Creative Process: ‘The Sad, Bewildered Quills’ of Guido Cavalcanti’, in MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, Vol 9 (2015). From October 2015, he will be a Victoria Maltby Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford.
Natalya Din-Kariuki read for a B.A. in English Language and Literature at Wadham College, before completing a Master of Studies in English Literature (1550-1700) at Balliol College. She is now in the second year of doctoral research in English Literature. Her interests include the literary and intellectual history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, rhetorical theory, contemporary African literature, and various strands of critical theory. The focus of her doctoral thesis is the role of testimony – and its ethical, aesthetic, and epistemological aspects – in early modern travel writing on the Ottoman Empire.
Julia Caterina Hartley is a final year D.Phil. candidate at the University of Oxford, writing a thesis entitled ‘Literary vocation in Dante and Proust’, under the supervision of Manuele Gragnolati and Jennifer Yee. The idea to further explore the intersection between gender identity and artistic authority came to her through Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, when she realised that while the novel is famous for its male fictional artists (Bergotte, Elstir and Vinteuil), its passages concerned with female characters’ relationship with the arts offer a fertile ground for study. After completing her D.Phil. she therefore hopes to further explore the relationship between discourses on aesthetics and on gender and sexuality in La Recherche and other 19th and turn of the century literary works and artistic manifestoes. Her reading of Proust’s fictional character Odette in dialogue with Baudelaire’s essay ‘Le peintre de la vie moderne’ will be coming out this year in French Studies.
More about the project:
Both the academic community and the wider public have recently been increasingly engaged with the topic of gender and authority. The recent debate around the exclusion of women composers from A Level syllabi that received so much attention in the mainstream media is a prime example, as is the discussion around the new design for the British passport. There is an urgent need for academic institutions to think carefully and seriously about this topic and consider whose work, scholarship and voice may be excluded from or erased by the academy, and why. Through discussion and work, we can reach an understanding of authority, power structures, hierarchies, and quality that more accurately reflects the diversity of cultural producers. By supporting this project, the Balliol Interdisciplinary Institute would signal its commitment to challenging existing hierarchies and making academic spaces more inclusive, placing itself at the forefront of active, questioning, and inclusive discussions. In addition, this important conversation would be made accessible to Balliol members at all career stages, supporting the development of ongoing generations of inquisitive and cutting edge scholars.
The first in our series of research events was the Women and the Canon conference held at Christ Church on the 22-23 January 2016 which opened the conversation that this project will sustain through a series of exciting papers and productive, collaborative, interdisciplinary discussion. The disciplines represented included Music, Art History, various Literatures, Film, Philosophy, Dance Studies, and Education.
We host seminars on a bi-termly basis featuring presentations of research in progress from scholars both within and outside the University of Oxford. Details of the programme will become available here.