Welcome!

Who am I?

I was raised on the land of the K’ómoks First Nation. Today I live, work, and play on the land of the Lekwungen peoples, and the Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSÁNEĆ peoples. I am a white settler of English and Scottish descent, and I strive to be an effective ally (VERB) in the project of decolonization.

I recognize also my intersecting privileges, and the tension that exists in striving to do disruptive work within institutional frameworks.

Baylee has long blonde hair on the left and a shaved head on the right. She smiles with her lips together in front of a monochromatic painting of a dragon, and she wears a black scarf and tank top.

My name is Baylee Woodley. I am a Masters (MA) student in Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Victoria.

My MA project brings together tools from Art History, Queer Theory, and Digital Humanities. It explores trans* and lesbian representation in the premodern French Courtly Romance Le Roman de Silence (The Romance of Silence), and the possibilities of remediation (or reinterpretation) in the contemporary digital archive Queer Art History created by Casey Hoke in 2017.

This project is part of my broader aspiration to create accessible and queer-centered art histories, build community among queer artists, engage the potential of visual communication and creation to further opportunities for queer self-definition, and contribute to efforts of queer legacy-building by validating the cross-temporal existence of queer individuals.

What am I doing here?

Always changing, first of all. My research will fluctuate as I adapt to contemporary needs and engage with new ideas. Though my degrees (thankfully) progress, my research will seem most successful to me if it itself is never stagnant as queer ‘hirstories’ themselves are ever-evolving.

This website exists to make my research process as accessible and transparent as possible. I welcome all respectful, constructive feedback and communication through my email.

I want this hirstory to be useful to contemporary queers including (but never limited to) lesbian-identifying women, femmes, transgender folks, and non-binary babes. This is a NO TERFs zone, and if you identify in ways you feel are not represented here please reach out!

Our “collective memories” (or “shared histories”) can contribute to a sense of identity, and they can encourage our own creative expressions and activism.

A little more on that note…

Our identities are intersectional. As we work to create our own interpretive methods we are disrupting dominant systemic, colonial models. Homophobia and transphobia are colonial problems. We cannot talk about queer hirstories without addressing racism, colonialism, ageism, ableism, transphobia, sexism, discrimination against sex-workers, and homophobia. These forms of discrimination all impact members of the queer community. Our intersecting identities also give “queering” its broad, powerful, and adaptable potential.

What Has My Process Been?

  1. Searching! When I returned to grad school my question really was just: what were the circumstances of lesbian representation in medieval England and France.

    And what about premodern lesbians more generally? Who were they? What can we call them? Did we exist back then because that wasn’t in my history class?

  2. Contextualizing and analysis! Once I decide on the objects I will focus on (case studies) I work to collect as much information about where they come from as possible — and I do my own formal and social analysis. My focus right now is on WLC.LM.6, which is a manuscript from 13th C. France.

    What I’ve discovered is that lesbian representation is part of a much more complex, indeterminate web of representing “sodomitical” bodies in premodern France. Women who had sexual relationships with other women were related in the medieval imagination to figures with fluid gender representation, people who had extramarital sex, people who masturbated, people who had anal sex, and people who adopted gender roles opposed to their “birth sex.” They were also, though, connected to people who committed bestiality, incest, and treason and framed as a “threat” to justify the interference of the Church.

  3. Queering, Digitizing, and Remediation! What can be achieved by mindfully bringing premodern art works into our present reality? How can we do this using digital, accessible, and queer environments?

    Digital Humanities offers us unique potential to gather, reclaim, and remediate objects as part of queer art hirstories. Digital environments have their own structural features that guide engagement and knowledge production — how can we make those features ‘queer’? What would make engagement pleasurable for contemporary queer audiences? My MA project is about (1) inviting critical engagement with processes of knowledge-production for the investigation of both medieval and contemporary interfaces and (2) looking to radical digital archival practices to remediate (or reinterpret) these interfaces for queer-subjects.

    Contemporary artists and activists are already engaging the medieval past to navigate lived queer experiences in the present, and the ramifications of medieval representations of queer bodies as sodomitical/heretical bodies continue to effect these lived experiences. Moreover, ‘medieval’ ideas about gender themselves are not all mainstream histories have claimed.

    Even though these representations bring up violent and condemnatory histories, I propose that it is time we reclaimed the histories of our bodies and how they have been represented. Queer art hirstories are fragmented, but we can weave them together ourselves in new acts of self-definition.

Who Holds Me Accountable?

  • My supervisor, Professor Catherine Harding
  • My queer family here in Victoria, BC (and hopefully internationally!)
  • You! I welcome all constructive, thoughtful feedback and ideas
  • My academic colleagues (locally and internationally) — I want to be held to the highest academic standard so that I only share with you quality, reliable work
  • Myself. As a femme, queer-lesbian with a proclivity for late medieval intellectual culture this work is near and dear to my heart.

Blog

Hoya and welcome! This is where (lucky you) I’m going to muddle through my thoughts and gamble with some possibly funny jokes.

I hope this blog will also allow for a happy, glittery collision of my life as a performer in the queer community of Victoria, and a medievalist who spends long nights drinking red wine and pouring over small miniatures of 14th century sodomites. I hope it shows that, for me at least, one could not exist without the other. They are both part of my embodied, queer, femme, academic experience so that one facilitates the manifestations of the other.

PLEASE NOTE…

… I am going to use words like “lesbian,” “woman,” and “female” A LOT here. They are important words. When I use them I am referring always to all women. Say it with me (yes, even if you are in a coffee shop): Trans women are women. There we go. Return here if you ever need a reminder.

Also gender is fluid — everyday, and also its constructions have changed extensively since people were writing in Premodern France — so I offer these terms in a fluid way. Whatever these terms mean to you, and whichever way they resonate with your identity is super valid and I don’t want my own constructions to stand in the way of that.

One that note: Any reference to Harry Potter on this blog refers exclusively to my own intimate, queer experience with the series and is in no way an endorsement of J.K Rowling who has fallen so far as to be akin to Umbridge in the woods being dragged away by the centaurs in my mind.

Forbidden Loves and Forgotten Legacies

One of the most beautiful things about doing my MA on lesbian representation has been gaining a sense of legacy, and an understanding of how historical cultural representations have led us to this point. Something I’ve been thinking about more and more recently is that intergenerational learning in lesbian communities, and queer communities more broadly, …

Burnina Sparks

There is an oft-held debate inside my head about the “appropriate” cross-over between my academic persona and my draglesque (drag + burlesque) persona, Burnina Sparks.

I was recently inspired by an academic who has a page on his website labelled “Play.” On this page he details the importance of play to his research.

When I took up the persona of Burnina Sparks I could never have imagined the impact it would have on my life.

Profound personal impacts abound, but so do professional ones.

Burnina Sparks is an irreplaceable part of my intentional, conscious exploration of identity, social construction, and queer hirstory making.

She is so-named in memoriam of all of the heretics who have burned at the stake. She is the resurrected and witchy type.

Performing as Burnina Sparks provides my most embodied engagement with lesbian-feminist tools of history-making. She is the creative expression that I am inspired to produce as I grapple with queer art hirstories and all of their assorted legacies.

Burnina Sparks is also to blame for (most of) the rhinestones and (biodegradable) glitter all over my floor.

A femme drag performer in a black and grey wig sits formally dressed beside a purple orchid and a stack of lesbian books including "Tipping the Velvet" by Sarah Waters and "To Believe in Women" by Lillian Faderman.
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