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.
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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.