"Vegetable Love: Critiques of Heteronormativity in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Christabel"
Abstract: The subjects of 'nature' and biology have often appeared in discussions of human sexuality, and have become all the more prominent as ecocritical approaches to literature gain momentum within the academy. As we work to formulate a 'queer ecology' that can remain engaged in contemporary gender issues while keeping an eye to ecological concerns, we might benefit from looking backward to see how our predecessors in literary history grappled with similar issues. In the eighteenth century, Erasmus Darwin combined botanical research and poetry to critique the conservative sexual values of his society, which had a marked influence on some of the best known writers of British Romanticism, Mary Shelley and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Through their incorporation of the latest scientific research into Frankenstein (1818) and “Christabel” (1816) Shelley and Coleridge are participating in the same tradition as Darwin when they look to biology and the “natural” world to critique heteronormative structures of sexuality and search instead for alternative forms of kinship and affinity. In this workshop, I will examine the ways in which Shelley and Coleridge decenter heteronormativity as a viable social institution, and look at how their literary efforts and contemporary gender theory can fruitfully inform one another.
Bio: Leanne MacDonald is a currently a doctoral student in the English Department at the University of Notre Dame, where she studies Middle English poetry, medieval historiography, and gender theory. She is also an editorial assistant for Milton Studies, and taught Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric during the 2013-2014 academic year.
In order to advance the program’s commitment to inter-disciplinary research and inquiry into the subject of gender, the Gender Studies Program is pleased to announce an upcoming series of research workshops. The events will include presentations by advanced undergraduates majoring in Gender Studies as well as graduate students and faculty members from a variety of departments who work in the area of gender and sexuality. The workshop will begin with the week’s presenter giving a brief lecture on his or her current research in the field, followed by a seminar-style discussion.
Workshops are held on Fridays from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in 119 O’Shaughnessy unless otherwise specified.
If you would like to reserve a date for a presentation at one of the Research Workshops please contact either of our Research Workshop coordinators: Angel Matos or Beatriz Carrillo.