Berkeley English Faculty

Grace Lavery

Grace Lavery

Associate Professor

434 Wheeler Hall
Tuesday 1 - 3
grace.lavery@berkeley.edu


Professional Statement

I specialize in Victorian literature and culture, trans feminist studies, and contemporary popular culture. My research across these three distinct fields of inquiry is linked by a concern with historical claims about aesthetic efficacy: the idea that certain aesthetic effects might simply work, and that though that efficacy might be deeply responsive to context, it is possessed of its own hypothetical logic. Such claims, whose “subjective universal” condition is definitively theorized in Kant’s Critique of Judgment and often implicit within psychoanalytic accounts of the clinical scene, are notoriously dubious in a philosophical sense, but I am more generally concerned with their causes and effects. For example, in Quaint, Exquisite, I argue that a distinctive and influential account of aesthetic universality developed in the UK partly as a reaction formation designed to protect against the disorienting effects of Japanese modernity. My work in trans feminist studies is likewise focused on the belief that transition works; that it is truly possible to change sex. This belief may be as embarrassing to those who hold it as it is anathema to much of the scholarship on sex and gender, which tends to valorize interminability and indeterminacy, and treats binary thinking skeptically as a matter of course. But it is nonetheless both a motivating factor and a social fact for many trans women who embark upon medical and social transition, and so make a serious psychic investment in the transformative possibility of aesthetic technique. My research seeks to understand both the historical and political conditions of possibility for such motivations, and their logical properties as structures of thought, without reducing either to mere ideology or amorphous affect.

I publish a newsletter several times a week, for which I write a mixture of literary criticism, psychoanalytic theory, trans feminist argument, fiction, memoir, and comic prose. It is called THE STAGE MIRROR and it is archived at grace.substack.com. 

My Twitter handle is @graceelavery; my  Instagram handle is @grace.lavery.pangolin. I regularly update both with non-professional and occasionally professional posts. My newsletter, THE STAGE MIRROR, can be found at http://grace.substack.com. When people refer to me, they use the pronouns "she," "her," and "hers."


Books
Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan
Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan

From the opening of trade with Britain in the 1850s, Japan occupied a unique and contradictory place in the Victorian imagination, regarded as both a rival empire and a cradle of exquisite beauty. Quaint, Exquisite explores the enduring impact of thi....(read more)


Selected Publications and Papers Delivered

Books

Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan, (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2019).

Selected Essays

––––"Trans Realism, Psychoanalytic Practice, and the Rhetoric of Technique," forthcoming in Critical Inquiry, Summer 2020. 

––––"The King's Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech," forthcoming in Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Winter 2019.

——(with Paul Saint-Amour) “Still Weak After All These Years,” response to the responses to the “Weak Theory” special issue of Modernism/modernityhttps://modernismmodernity.org/forums/posts/responses-responses-special-issue-weak-theory

––––"Fear of Commitment," as part of a special issue on Theodor Adorno's "Commitment," ed. Nathan Hensley and Molly Hillard,Victorian Literature and Culture, forthcoming.

––––“Grad School as Conversion Therapy,” Los Angeles Review of Books: http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/essays/grad-school-conversion-therapy/

––––'On Being Criticized,' special issue on Weak Theory, ed. Paul Saint-Amour, modernism/modernity, 25.3, September 2018.

––––'The Mikado's Queer Realism: Law, Genre, Knowledge,' special issue on Worlding Realisms, ed. Lauren Goodlad, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, 49.2, Fall 2016.

––––'Remote Proximities: Aesthetics, Orientalism, and the Intimate Life of Japanese Things,' English Literary History, 83.4, Winter 2016.

––––'The Victorian Counterarchive: John Ruskin, Mikimoto Ryuzo, and Affirmative Reading,' Comparative Literature Studies, 50.3, 2013.

––––'Deconstruction and Petting: Untamed Animots in Kafka and Derrida,' in Demenageries: Thinking (of) Animals After Derrida, ed. Anne Berger and Marta Segarra (Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2011).

––––'Emergency Repairs Are Required On All Our Dams,' the boundary 2 review: http://www.boundary2.org/2016/10/joseph-lavery-emergency-repairs-are-required-on-all-our-dams/

––––'Sex Without Victorians: Kate Bush and Historicism,' V21: Victorian Studies for the 21st Century: http://v21collective.org/joseph-lavery-sex-without-victorians-kate-bush-and-historicism/

 

Lectures

––––[TBA], University of Hong Kong, (HK, 2019).

––––"Too Late for Gwendolyn," Brown University (Providence, RI: 2019).

––––"So, You Just Told Everyone You're a Girl Now. Oops," Housing Works Bookshop (New York, NY: 2019).

––––"Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan," University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI: 2019).

––––“The Grammar of Attachment: Merce Cunningham,” part of Paramodernities, a curated dance production by Netta Yerushalmy, (San Francisco, CA: 2018).

––––'Some Pronouns for the Author of Middlemarch,' Dickens Universe (Santa Cruz, CA: 2017).

––––'Exquisite/Victorian: Gilbert and Sullivan, Noguchi, Tarantino,' University of Oxford, (Oxford, UK: 2016). 

––––'This Exquisite World,' 19th Century Colloquium University of California, Los Angeles, (Los Angeles, CA: 2016).

––––'Ugly Realism,' San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, (San Francisco, CA, 2016).

––––'Japan and the Victorian Tradition,' Osaka University (Osaka, JP: 2015).

––––'Girls and the Unconscious,' San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, Contemporary Dialogues in Psychoanalysis, (San Francisco, CA: 2015). 

 

Selected Conference Presentations

––––"Beyond the Pleasure Principle at 100," Modern Language Association (Seattle, WA: 2020)

––––"Stonewall at 50," Modern Language Association (Seattle, WA: 2020).

––––"My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix at 25," American Studies Association (Honolulu, HI: 2019).

––––"Trans Anti-Modernism," Modernist Studies Association (Toronto, ON: 2019).

––––'Decolonizing Victorian Studies,' Modern Language Association (Chicago, IL: 2019).

––––'Trans Realism and the Rhetoric of Technique," Modernist Studies Association (Columbus, OH: 2018).

––––'The King’s Two Anuses,' On the Subject of Ethnonationalism: The Transgressive Style and the Claim to Critique (Berkeley, CA: 2018).

––––'Brainwash Aesthetics,' Novel Theory (Ithaca, NY: 2018)

––––'Form and Escalation,' Modern Language Association (New York, NY, 2018)

––––'They All Did It,' North American Victorian Studies Association (Firenze, IT: 2017).

––––'The Old Pornography Shop,' Modern Language Association (Philadelphia, PA: 2017).

––––'Meta-Utopia: One Day We Will Have Better Ideas,' Modern Language Association (Philadelphia, PA: 2017).

––––'Countertransference (Impressions of Theophrastus Such)', North American Victorian Studies Association (Phoenix, AZ: 2016).

––––'Bojack Horseman: Escape from LA,' North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (Berkeley, CA: 2016).

––––'Madame Butterfly's Martial Art,' Modernist Studies Association (Cambridge, MA: 2015).

––––'The Legitimacy Project: George Orwell's Dirty Postcards,' American Comparative Literature Association, (Seattle, WA: 2015).

––––'The Exquisite Art of Castration: Kill Bill" (New Haven, CT: 2015).

––––'Whinging and Gushing', American Comparative Literature Association, (New York, NY: 2014).

 


Current Research

My current book project, "Getting Better: Realism, Repetition, and the Rhetoric of Technique," explores the relationship between classic literary realism, especially in the work of George Eliot, and another modern genre: texts which offered practical instructions about apparently ineffable phenomena. Where Romantics had treated literary achievement as attained only by inspiration, Victorian realists insisted that it can – and must – be acquired through methodical labor, on the part of both writers and readers. “Getting Better” traces such rhetorics of technique through a range of realist and post-realist texts, revealing hitherto unexplored connections between Eliot’s fiction and various other discourses of asymptotic self-improvement, including: recovery narrative (“Janet’s Repentance” and Alcoholics Anonymous); psychoanalytic technique (Adam Bede and Freud’s Essays on Technique); the technique of brainwashing (Eliot’s ecclesiastical writings and work by and about cults); and sex tips (RomolaMiddlemarch, and Marie Stopes). In light of these questions, I also reconsider the controversial question of Eliot’s transgender identification, exploring the techniques associated with gendered literary styles, the gendered question of reference throughout Eliot’s fiction but especially in Middlemarch, and the discourse of transgender identity known, in our present moment, as “realness.” Deriving its method from narrative theory, queer theory, and the late work of Michel Foucault on “technologies of the self,” “Getting Better” offers a new account of the rhetoric of technique in Eliot’s work, and a new history of realism’s sedimentation into post-Bildung and secular narratives of personal development.


Recent English Courses Taught
spring, 2020

45C/1

Literature in English: Mid-19th Through the 20th Century

45C/101 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

45C/102 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

45C/103 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

45C/104 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

45C/105 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

45C/106 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

172/1

Literature and Psychology: Literature and Therapy

172/101 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

172/102 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

172/103 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

172/104 -- discussion section

No instructor assigned yet.

fall, 2019

122/1

The Victorian Period

spring, 2019

176/1

Literature and Popular Culture: The Sitcom

176/101 -- discussion section

Hu, Jane

176/102 -- discussion section

Hu, Jane

176/103 -- discussion section

Muhammad, Ismail

176/104 -- discussion section

Choi, Jeehyun

176/105 -- discussion section

Choi, Jeehyun

176/106 -- discussion section

Muhammad, Ismail

176/107 -- discussion section

O'Rourke, Emily

176/108 -- discussion section

O'Rourke, Emily

176/109 -- discussion section

Hu, Jane

190/2

Research Seminar: Transsexual Literatures and Cultures

fall, 2018

122/1

Victorian Period

122/101 -- discussion section

Baker-Gibbs, Ariel

122/102 -- discussion section

Baker-Gibbs, Ariel

165/1

Special Topics: Oscar Wilde and the Nineteenth Century

spring, 2018

250/4

Research Seminar: The Rhetoric of Technique

summer, 2018

176/1

Literature and Popular Culture: The 1990s: A Decade About Nothing

fall, 2017

122/1

The Victorian Period

122/101 -- discussion section

Heimlich, Timothy

122/102 -- discussion section

Viragh, Atti

165/1

Special Topics: Genres of Free Speech

spring, 2017

80K/1

Children's Literature