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University of Oxford Faculty of English

Mendelssohn, Dr Michèle

Job Title: Associate Professor (University Lecturer) and Tutorial Fellow
College: Mansfield

Period/ Subject: Late 19th & Early 20th Century British and American Literature

Email address: michele.mendelssohn@ell.ox.ac.uk

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Books

I have 4 books in progress. The first book tells the untold story of Oscar Wilde's 1882 American tour and how it transformed his life and work.

The second book examines the legacy of 19th century British decadence in the works of 20th century African American writers, especially during the Harlem Renaissance. A chapter will appear in African American Review. This project has been awarded the 2014 Donald C. Gallup Fellowship in American literature at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Alongside these projects, I am working on two co-edited books: Oxford 21st Century Approaches to Literature, 1880-1920 (with Laura Marcus and Kirsten Shepherd-Barr; Oxford University Press) and Writing under the Influence: Essays on Alan Hollinghurst (with Denis Flannery; Manchester University Press).

My first book was Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture (Edinburgh UP, 2007). It will be reissued in paperback in 2015.

This book asks why being "aesthetic" mattered so much to the Victorians. It explains how British and American Aestheticism (the literary and artistic movement that flourished on both sides of the Atlantic between the 1860s and early 1900s) responded to anxieties about culture, nationality, sexuality and originality.

The book begins by reconfiguring Aestheticism as a transatlantic dialogue, and making Henry James and Oscar Wilde the critical figures in this conversation. It then shows that the lifelong rivalry between these two preeminent authors actually reflected a creative dynamic that dominated aesthetic culture on both sides of the sea. This dynamic is traced through James's and Wilde's works, as well as through their relationships with the Impressionist painter James McNeill Whistler, and the novelist and Punch cartoonist George Du Maurier. This dynamic, then, is a bridge over culturally troubled waters.

Using queer theory alongside historically-grounded close readings, this study reveals that James's and Wilde's relationship was symptomatic of the vital and transformative cultural exchanges that shaped Anglo-American Modernism.

Selected articles and chapters

Selected Conferences and Talks
 

Biographical Information
Michèle Mendelssohn was born and raised in Montréal, Canada. After completing a first degree in English Literature and Liberal Arts at Concordia University, she spent a year doing research in German and American literature at the University of Heidelberg as a German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) Fellow.

Michèle completed her M.Phil. (First) and Ph.D. at Cambridge University (King’s College). She was also a Fulbright Scholar and Departmental Associate in the English Department at Harvard University. Prior to joining Oxford’s English Faculty in 2009, she taught at Edinburgh University, Boston University, Harvard, Cambridge, and Heidelberg.

Her research has won several awards including a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, the Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Visiting Research Fellowship at the Humanities Center of the University of Utah, a short-term Research Fellowship in African American History and Culture at Emory University, and an Eccles Centre for American Studies Visiting Fellowship.

She is on the board of English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 and Canadian Review of American Studies. She reviews for Modernism/ modernityHenry James ReviewVictorian ReviewReview of English Studies, and others.

Beyond the university, Michèle has written for The New York Times and The Guardian. She has been interviewed in The Scotsman and on CBC radio. 

In Oxford's English Faculty, she co-organised the Alain Locke in the 21st Century Symposium; she is also a member of the IT Committee. At the Rothemere American Institute, she co-convenes the American Literature Research Seminar; she is also a member of the Academic Committee. In the Oxford Centre for the Humanities, she is part of The Race and Resistance Network.

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