Strategies of Containment: The Return to Williamsburg

Over the past few weeks, I have been swept up in the rush of new student orientation and the first days of class, but it’s time now to get back to business on my honors project. I’m seeing opportunities for application to my thesis in some of coursework in the English department already. This fall, I am taking a senior seminar on Virginia Woolf with Professor Raitt, which represents a . In discussing my travels this summer, I alluded to rereading Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway in the mornings, and I was struck by the ways in which she imagines London and the ways in which Clarissa Dalloway (and many others in Woolf’s fiction) can be read as inhabiting coded, closeted, or questioning queer identities. Although Woolf’s fiction is later than even Howards End (it would really be a stretch to consider my thesis a contribution to Victorian studies if 2/3 of my texts were post-1910), I think the myriad ways in which she philosophizes about and considers the city could be extremely informative and might even merit reference in a full-length thesis. And Woolf herself was a prolific and brilliant writer of literary criticism.

Perhaps more relevant, however, is the course “Literature and the Formation of Homosexuality” with Professor Joyce–some of whose work I have read over the summer in conducting my own research. The course surveys works by both canonical and non-canonical British and American writers (also diarists, memoirists, cartoonists, philosophers) since the Regency Era in an attempt to understand the ways in which topics like sexuality, desire, friendship, gender, etc. have been reflected and refracted in the output of queer artists. I don’t consider myself particularly well-versed in the fundamentals of queer theory or in the history of human sexuality (esp. in literature), so I feel splendidly lucky for the opportunity to study a bit of both under the guidance of a professor whose research interests align so closely with my own. Additionally, I am excited and intrigued to see how some of the lesser-known/studied perspectives on Professor Joyce’s syllabus will complement or disrupt the more traditionally literary bloc of texts I’ve curated for my thesis.

On Wednesday, I’ll sit down with my advisor to go over summer progress, talk about next steps for research, and to iron out a plan for the semester as to when we’ll meet, what she expects of me, and how on earth I’ll ever get around to writing the actual thesis. As I return to a full course load, extracurricular involvements, social commitments, and the thousand other demands of life at W&M, I find myself revisited by concerns about my ability to stick to a productive research regiment. However, I’ve set up my course schedule to allow for pockets of time that can be more-or-less entirely devoted to my honors work, and I think I will feel re-energized by my return to the academic community at William & Mary.

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