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Name: Simon Clewes

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title:

Happily Never After: Male-Male Desire and Love in the Gothic Writing of William Godwin and his Circle


Thesis Description:

My project explores stories of male-male desire and male-male love in early Gothic writing.

Given that this writing pre-dates the sexual codification of the 19th Century, my primary objective is to contest the commonly-held theoretical notion that this desire and love could not exist in writing at this time. I will achieve this by demonstrating how authors weave and encode male-male love stories into their work. Furthermore, I will show how these stories' ill-fated conclusions of hatred, murder, suicide and remorse function as a way to critique the homophobic patriarchal politics of the time: male-male sexual desire's inability to fully transform into passionate love functions as a way for authors to critique laws that criminalised love between men and denied it a future. I will show how the sad and/or tragic finales come about not because of this desire and love, but because of the repression of these through characters' internalisation of patriarchal ideologies that make them hateful of their innocent attraction to other men. 

My MRes thesis revealed a need for more focused work on William Godwin's writing, as this has attracted much invacuate critical attention that downplays male-male desire and love. Male-male couplings are, furthermore, a definitive part of his fiction. By beginning my research with Godwin, I will have a strong basis to expand to his circle with the intention to talk about a community that collectively worked to critique oppressive attitudes which celebrating male-male desire and love. These include Mary and Percy Shelley, Joanna Baillie and Matthew Gregory Lewis, with a view to go beyond canonical authors to lesser-known texts that influence, and are influenced by, Godwin's circle. 


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Lead supervisor: Kate Rumbold, University of Birmingham

Co-supervsior: Louise Curran, University of Birmingham

Advisor: Charlotte Ross, University of Birmingham 


After graduating from Keele University in 2012 with a degree in English and American Literatures, I took the decision to leave academia and begin a career as a journalist. Once qualified with the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists), I wrote for a number of local magazine and news publications including Cheshire Life and Staffordshire Life. However, my love for academia eventually proved too strong and in 2015 I took the plunge and self-funded my way through an MRes in Sexuality and Gender Studies at the University of Birmingham. Hugely inspired–and with much more I wanted to say on my thesis topic–I applied to, and was lucky enough to be funded by, M3C to complete my PhD studies. 


Other Research Interests:

  • Queer theory
  • Gender performance 
  • Masculinity


University email address:

Twitter: @simon_clewes


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