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Matilda Blackwell

Languages and Literature, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

Closet Spaces: Reading the Bathroom in Early Twentieth-Century Literature

Bathroom spaces are highly ubiquitous, yet largely forgotten, and often unspoken spaces around which women’s lives are organised. Because of their prevalence in the daily lives of women across the social strata (albeit in varying levels of accessibility, luxury, cleanliness and comfort), bathroom spaces provide a useful lens through which to explore the key material and social issues that plagued them: the conflict between women’s public and private selves; the discord between a dominant ideology of a potentially limiting and claustrophobic domestic role and women’s burgeoning social, economic and sexual independence; and the struggle to craft a sense of home, homeliness or belonging as a marginalised individual. 

By examining the ways in which some early twentieth-century writers use literary bathroom spaces to think through the ambivalent social, economic and sexual position of women at this time, I consider how women constructed, fictionalised and understood new and alternative identities, and how the bathroom becomes an alternative space in the city and the home for the exploration and formation of these selves. In addition, I show how the dominant ideologies of gender, class and sexuality built into the very walls of these modern bathroom spaces inflect their imaginative representations with historically specific narratives about women’s everyday lives.

Research Area

  • Languages and Literature

Conferences

  • Modernism and Multiple Temporalities, MSIA2 International Conference, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan, 12-14 September 2019: 'Fluid Temporalities, Subversive Spaces and Queer Female Community in the Asylum Bathroom'
  • Spaces and Places: An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference, Bruges, Belgium, 13-14 April 2019: 'Therapeutic Spaces, Fluid Sexualities & Female Community'
  • Katherine Mansfield: New Directions, Birkbeck University, 28-29 June 2018: 'Queering the Water-Cure: Fluid Sexualities in Katherine Mansfield’s Turkish Bath'
  • Medical Humanities Workshop, University of Lancaster, 19 April 2018: 'Queering the Water-Cure: Fluid Sexualities in the Therapeutic Bathroom Spaces of Emily Holmes Coleman, Antonia White and Katherine Mansfield'
  • Queer Modernism(s) II, University of Oxford, 12-13 April 2018: 'Queering the Water-Cure: Fluid Sexualities in the Therapeutic Bathroom Spaces of Emily Holmes Coleman, Antonia White and Katherine Mansfield'
  • New Work in Modernist Studies Conference, University of Leeds, 15 December 2017: 'Closet Spaces: Reading the Bathroom in Early Twentieth-Century Literature'


Other Research Interests

  • Forgotten women writers
  • Middlebrow fiction
  • Sussex modernism
  • Domestic space
  • Queer modernism
  • Medical humanities

Memberships

  • British Association of Modernist Studies
  • Katherine Mansfield Society
  • Midlands Modernist Network

Professional Activities