Thomas Fleming

Thomas’s research interests lie at the intersection of cultural, religious, and critical history. For his PhD project, he is applying an interdisciplinary approach to historical research, proposing to undertake a critical reading of eighteenth-century devotional and mystical textuality, by working with gender, feminist, and psychoanalytic theory. Through a critique of its historiographical framework, his project hopes to dislodge the dominant historical narrative of sexual difference in the eighteenth century, challenging its universalising and teleological narrative, which forecloses the possibility of other representations of this category. Indeed, in turning to eighteenth-century religious material, his thesis sets out to offer an alternative history of sexual difference for this period. Through employing an interdisciplinary approach, this history will provide a less teleological, less identitarian understanding of sexual difference, one that refrains from engaging in a “chronology determines identity” paradigm. Representations of sexual difference, desire, and sexuality in these religious texts point not only to the multiplicity of the past, but also to the close ties between historical studies, “French” feminist theory, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis. The framing of sexual difference as subject to representation, of femininity and masculinity as dispositions to be assumed by a subject in relation to “the other”, recalls what can be found in these texts. Here, the contingent and discursive formation of subjectivity questions a historicist approach which presents a unity to the cultural inscription of bodies. Ultimately, to demonstrate the complexities of the supposedly ahistorical and innate category of sexual difference in the past is to recognise the plurality and mutability of sexual difference in the present.


Supervisor: Jason Peacey
Working title: 'Religious Bodies: Refiguring Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in the Early/Modern' 

Conference Papers and Presentations

'Refiguring “the maternal”: the body of Christ and regimes of sexual difference in the eighteenth-century west', Women's History Network, April 2023


PGTA for Theoretical Issues in History and Literature (CMII0026)