Kit Pyne-Jaeger

Project title:  A Waltz On an Empty Shore: Geography as Emotion and Theorizing Queer “Underworlds” in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Literature

Project description:  My College Scholar project is an examination of the queer geography of literature as it evolved from the Victorian movements of decadence and aestheticism to interwar modernism, with a focus on the reception of Greco-Roman classical texts as a mode of queer self-expression. Drawing on gender theory, reception studies, and art history, it will consider what fin-de-siècle landscapes—public and private, literal and theoretical—act as metonyms for queer emotionality, and how the uninhabitable margins of geography frame sexual and gendered identities. In the spirit of Ali Smith’s Artful and Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet, other projects of literary criticism that address questions of gender and sexuality with a vocabulary and style new to the genre, I intend to queer the project itself (in a manner of speaking) by writing it as a book-length lyric essay rather than a traditional research thesis.

Most important accomplishment:  Last January, I had the opportunity to present a conference paper on Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis and Sophocles’ Antigone at the 2019 Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting, after being selected from a national pool of applicants for the event’s only undergraduate panel. The paper, titled “Your Marriage Murders Mine: The Moral Consciousness of the Tragic Virgin,” addressed the feminine responsibilities and rituals on which the moral logic of the tragic heroine is founded. Presenting at my first professional conference was an immensely exciting experience, and speaking about a subject so personally important to me—the interiority of young women and girls in classical literature—made it still more rewarding.

Reflections on the College Scholar Program:  Thanks to the flexibility the College Scholar program offered me, I was able to spend a semester studying at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, learning, among other things, the history of the oldest synagogue in Europe, the meaning of Mannerism versus maniera, and the fallibility of the Italian bus schedule. As a transfer student, the ability to design my own curriculum made it possible for me to organize my graduation plan with space for what proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I also have that freedom to thank for making my College Scholar project, which has evolved throughout almost six years into the blend of theory and poem that I hope to write now, a reality. A critical-creative thesis that incorporates such a wide range of disciplines and unwieldy length of time would have seemed like an intimidatingly unrealistic goal without the support, openness, and interdisciplinary inclusivity of the College Scholar program.