MASTERCLASS: ‘Tell Me Your Secret, Dr James’.

Students are invited to attend a masterclass given by Professor Ann Heilmann (Cardiff) on Tuesday 1 November at 10am in the Milgate Seminar Room, AD Hope, SLLL. The masterclass will be of interest to students working in literature and biography, biofiction, as well as those working in gender studies or studying transgender from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including history, anthropology and philosophy.

James Miranda Barry, a sensational transgender case of the nineteenth century

This masterclass takes as its focus a spectacular case of historical transgender to examine the resonance of notions of sex/gender instability in Victorian, twentieth century and contemporary depictions of James Miranda Barry (1789?- 1865). James Barry graduated in medicine from Edinburgh in 1812, entered the medical branch of the British military in 1813, and from 1816-1859 served as a medical officer, humanitarian and sanitary reformer in the British colonies (Cape Colony, Mauritius, Jamaica, Windward and Leeward Islands, St Helena, Malta, Corfu, and Canada). As Inspector General he attained the highest rank in the medical branch of the British military. After his death in 1865 sensational claims were made about his body having been that of a woman. It was not until the 1980s that evidence of Barry’s female birth identity was found.

How did Victorian contemporaries respond to these disclosures? Are there any similarities between Victorian and contemporary constructions of the figure of the gender crosser? How is transgender represented in textual format? Do biographers use different textual strategies from novelists and playwrights? These are some of the questions this two-hour session seeks to explore.

Please contact Dr Kate Mitchell if you’d like to take part in this masterclass, and in order to receive reading materials.


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