Grace Lavery

Grace Lavery

Assistant Professor
434 Wheeler Hall
Friday, 11 - 1

Professional Statement

My first book, Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan, is forthcoming in 2019 from Princeton University Press. Quaint, Exquisite examines the ramifications for British aesthetic theory of the increased visibility of a non-European, but palpably modern, empire, in the wake of the opening of Japan. I argue that the idea of Japan catalyzed, diffused, and finally foreclosed a new investment in art for art’s sake, among both British aesthetes and Japanese ambassadors of culture working in Victorian institutions and genres. I also argue that the distinctive aesthetic and historical formulation of the idea of Japan – as both exquisite and quaint – continues to condition aesthetic discourse as such, long after its inception in the context of late Victorian inter-imperial rivalry.

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 growth.

When people refer to me, they use the pronouns "she," "her," and "hers."


Selected Publications and Papers Delivered


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

"Getting Better: Realism, Repetition, and the Rhetoric of Technique," work in progress. 


––––"Transsexual Realism and the Rhetoric of Technique in George Eliot and Sigmund Freud," forthcoming in Critical Inquiry, Summer 2020. 

––––"The King's Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech," (solicited) Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies

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

––––“Grad School as Conversion Therapy,” Los Angeles Review of Books:

––––'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, 49.2, Fall 2016.

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

––––'The Victorian Counterarchive: John Ruskin, Mikimoto Ryuzo, and Affirmative Reading,' Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 50, No. 3., 2013.

––––“Minimal Criticism,” Futures of Comparative Literature, ed. Ursula K. Heise et al, (New York: Routledge, 2017).

––––'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:

––––'Sex Without Victorians: Kate Bush and Historicism,' V21: Victorian Studies for the 21st Century:

–––– 'Minimal Criticism,' ACLA State of the Discipline Report 2015: 


––––'Ernest Fenollosa: Out of Time, Out of Place,' review of The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry: A Critical Edition, ed. Haun Saussy, Jonathan Stalling and Lucas Klein in Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 34. (2011).

––––'Review of Andrew Goldstone, Fictions of Autonomy," Studies in the Novel, Vol. 46, No. 2, (2014).

Reference Work

––––"Japonisme," Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature (2015).

––––'Sadakichi Hartmann' and 'Yone Noguchi,' Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism (2016).


Selected Presentations

––––forthcoming presentations: MSA 2019, roundtable on "trans modernism"; ASA 2019, roundtable discussion of Susan Stryker's "My Words to Victor Frankenstein" on the event of the essay's quartercentenary; MLA 2020, roundtable discussions on the fiftieth anniversary of the "Stonewall Riots," and the centenary of Freud's "Beyond the Pleasure Principle." 

––––'Gender Dysphoria and the Rhetoric of Technique in Freud and Eliot,' at the Aix-Berkeley Conference in Nineteenth Century Studies (Berkeley, CA: 2018); also given at 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).

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

––––'Requiem for Superboy-Prime: Form, Sadism, Escalation,' MLA (New York, NY: 2018).

––––'The Pre-Raphaelite Haiku," (York, UK: 2017). 

––––'Tragedy, Farce, ???, Brexit: The London Olympics,' NAVSA (Banff, AL: 2017).

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

––––'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).

––––'No Cuts: Hollywood, Orientalism, and the Exquisite Art of the Samurai Sword,' North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (Berkeley, CA: 2016).

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

––––'You're A Very Sexy Baby!,' Department of Music, University of California, Berkeley, (Berkeley, CA: 2016). 

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

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

––––'Realism and Countertransference,' Modern Language Association, (Austin, TX: 2016).

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

––––'The Pre-Raphaelite Haiku,' North American Victorian Studies Association, (Honolulu, HI: 2015).

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

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

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

––––'The Aesthetic Turn,' in a roundtable discussion entitled "Ideas of the Decade," ACL(x), (State College, PA: 2013).

––––'Pretty, Weak, and Light,' in a roundtable discussion entitled “Weak Theory,” Modernist Studies Association, (Brighton, UK: 2013).

––––'Slippery Skimpole: An Antisocial Question About Bleak House,' American Comparative Literature Association, (Toronto, ON: 2013).

––––'Wealth and Life: Biopolitics of the Mikimoto Ruskin Library,' Northeast Victorian Studies Association, (New York, NY: 2012).

––––'Thatcherite Atavism: Agatha Christie and the Falklands War,' ACL(x) panel “The 1980s”, American Comparative Literature Association, (Providence, RI: 2012).

––––'The Haiku as Convalescence,' Intersections of African/Asian-American Studies, (Philadelphia, PA: 2011).

––––'Brevity and Abbreviation: The Case of Sadakichi Hartmann,' Modernist Studies Association, (Buffalo, NY: 2011).

––––'Max Nordau and the Gay Science of Cultural Criticism,' American Comparative Literature Association, (Vancouver, BC: 2011).

Recent English Courses Taught

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
176/1 Literature and Popular Culture: The Sitcom Film
Literary Theory
176/101 -- discussion section No instructor assigned yet.
190/2 Research Seminar: Transsexual Literatures and Cultures Novel
Research Seminars
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
122/1 Victorian Period British 19th-Century
122/101 -- discussion section Baker-Gibbs, Ariel
122/102 -- discussion section Baker-Gibbs, Ariel
165/1 Special Topics: Oscar Wilde and the Nineteenth Century British 19th-Century
Special Topics
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/4 Research Seminar: The Rhetoric of Technique British 19th-Century
Literary Theory
Graduate Courses
Summer, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
176/1 Literature and Popular Culture: The 1990s: A Decade About Nothing Special Topics
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
122/1 The Victorian Period British 19th-Century
122/101 -- discussion section Heimlich, Timothy
122/102 -- discussion section Viragh, Atti
165/1 Special Topics: Genres of Free Speech Literary Theory
Special Topics
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
80K/1 Children's Literature Special Topics

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