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“The Handsome Groom of Camberwell” & a “Perhapser”: Trans Masculinity in Victorian Periodicals & Fiction

March 22, 2021 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Line drawing of a white man in early nineteenth-century dress. He faces left and holds his hat in his left hand and his right hand is outstretched. The text below the drawing reads as follows: “Portrait of The Female Husband! who, under the assumed name of “James Allen” was married for 21 Years without once disclosing her sex—she resided and earned her living as a Sawyer at Redriffe, where she was killed, Jan. 13th 1829.”
Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle. “Portrait of the female husband!” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1829.

Monday Seminar:

Lisa Hager

UW System Fellow (2020-2021)

English; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, UW-Milwaukee at Waukesha


Though we tend to think of transgender people as a modern phenomenon, transgender studies has shown us that all sorts of people have moved between, across, and among genders since gender itself first existed. In considering this fundamental idea in the context of Victorian literary studies, this presentation will center on nineteenth-century trans masculinity via James Allen (1787-1829), one of the most well-known “female husbands” (assigned-female-at-birth people who lived and married as men), and would-be-female-husband Albert Nobbs, one of the character studies from George Moore’s Celibate Lives (1927).

As my readings of these transmasculine figures in the periodical press and fiction will demonstrate, Victorian gender ideologies and lived realities involved transgender phenomena that both confirmed the discreetness of the categories of man and woman, but also unsettled the impermeability of such boundaries as the discourse attempts to reconcile the masculinities of these figures with their assigned-at-birth sex. As such, these narratives illustrate the need for transgender studies’ thinking through the formation of gender itself to become a foundational part of Victorian studies.


Lisa Hager is an Associate Professor of English and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Waukesha, where they direct the LGBTQIA Resource Center. Their current book project looks at the intersections of trans studies and Victorian studies, and they have published articles on Victorian sexology, the New Woman, aestheticism and decadence, steampunk, digital humanities, and trans and queer studies. Their article on “female husbands” was recently awarded the Surridge Prize for Best Article Published in Victorian Review and the North American Victorian Studies Association Donald Gray Prize for the Best Essay Published in the Field of Victorian Studies. In January 2021, they assumed editorship, along with their colleague Dr. Anna Maria Jones, of the academic journal Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism.


[Due to COVID-19, this event has been moved to a digital conferencing platform. To participate please send an email with your name, university affiliation, and how you heard about the event to IRH at info@irh.wisc.edu.]


March 22, 2021
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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