Mendelssohn, Dr Michèle
Job Title: University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow
Period/ Subject: Late 19th & Early 20th Century British and American Literature
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Research and Teaching Interests
- Late 19th and early 20th century British and American literature
- Transatlantic studies
- "Race" studies
- Visual and material culture
- Gender and sexuality studies
I have four book projects in progress. The first, Going 'Wilde', tells the untold story of Oscar Wilde's American lecture tour. Using new materials, it retrieves a lost episode in cultural history and reveals how it transformed Wilde. The second book examines the legacy of 19th century British decadence in the works of early 20th century African American artists and writers, especially during the Harlem Renaissance. Alongside these projects, I am working on two co-edited volumes: one on late Victorian and Modern English literature for the Oxford 21st Century Approaches to Literature Series, and another on the contemporary British writer, Alan Hollinghurst.
What did it mean to be "aesthetic"? And why did this matter so much in the 19th century? This book 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
“Oscar Wilde, Henry James and the Fate of Aestheticism.” Oscar Wilde in Context. Eds. Kerry Powell and Peter Raby (Cambridge UP, forthcoming in 2013)
"Beautiful Souls Mixed up with Hooked Noses: Art, Degeneration and Anti-Semitism in Trilby and The Master." Victorian Literature and Culture 40.1 (2012): 179-197.
“Notes on Oscar Wilde's Transatlantic Gender Politics.” Journal of American Studies 46.1 (2012):1-15.
“Aestheticism and Decadence.” Henry James in Context. Ed. David McWhirter (Cambridge UP, 2010): 93-104.
“The Tragic Muse.” Critical Companion to Henry James: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. Eds. Eric Haralson and Kendall Johnson (Clearmark, 2009)
“‘I’m not a bit expensive’: Henry James and the Sexualization of the Victorian Girl.” Nineteenth-Century Childhood and the Rise of Consumer Culture. Ed. Dennis Denisoff (Ashgate, 2008): 81-93.
“Introduction: A Twenty Year Old.” Revaluing and Re-Evaluating Richard Ellmann's Oscar Wilde. Ed. Michèle Mendelssohn. The Oscholars (2007).
“Oscar Wilde”, Men and Masculinities: A Social, Cultural and Historical Encyclopedia. Eds. Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson (ABC-Clio, 2004)
“Ticket to Rye: a Visit to Henry James's House”, The New Compass: a Critical Review (Dec 2004)
“Homosociality and the Aesthetic in James’s Roderick Hudson”. Nineteenth-Century Literature (March 2003): 512-541.
- Panel chair, Art Across the Black Diaspora: Visualizing Slavery in America, 29-30 May 2013.
- Research paper, Alternative Modernisms: An International, Interdisciplinary Conference, Cardiff, 15-18 May 2013.
- Invited talk, Victorian Studies Centre, University of Leicester, 8 May 2013.
- Panel chair, Modernist Magazines in the Americas: Points of Departure Conference, 12 Dec 2012.
- Conference co-organiser, Alain Locke in the 21st Century, 12-13 October 2012.
- Research paper, Race, Nation and Empire on the Victorian Stage, Lancaster, 11-14 July 2012.
- Panel chair, Placing Henry James, Henry James Society Conference, London, June 29-July 1 2012.
- Research paper, A Stray Savage in Oxford: A Henry James Centenary Symposium, 25 June 2012.
- Invited talk, Department of English, Emory University, 15 April 2012.
- Invited talk, Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Texas A&M University, 26 January 2010.
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. In 2014, she will be the Donald C. Gallup Fellow in American literature at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
She is on the board of English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 and Canadian Review of American Studies. She reviews for Modernism/ modernity, Henry James Review, Victorian Review, Review of English Studies, and others.
In addition to her scholarly work, Michèle has written for The New York Times and The Guardian, and been interviewed in The Scotsman, as well as on CBC radio.