Category Archives: Publication

MW Bychowski publishes “Unconfessing Transgender” in OA journal


Announcement: M.W. Bychowski published an article, “Unconfessing Transgender: Dysphoric Youths and the Medicalization of Madness in John Gower’s “Tale of Iphis and Ianthe” in the OA journal Accessus


On the brink of the twenty-first century, Judith Butler argues in “Undiagnosing Gender” that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines the psychiatric condition of “Gender Identity Disorder” (or “Gender Dysphoria”) in ways that control biological diversity and construct “transgender” as a marginalized identity. By turning the study of gender away from vulnerable individuals and towards the broader systems of power, Butler works to liberate bodies from the medical mechanisms managing difference and precluding potentially disruptive innovations in forms of life and embodiment by creating categories of gender and disability.

Turning to the brink of the 15th century, we find that John Gower’s Confessio Amantis narrates the division and dysphoria of gender according to the hermeneutic of the seven deadly sins. The “Tale of Iphis and Ianthe” occurs in the Confessio’s Book IV on “acedia,” or sloth. Iphis, whose story is bordered by a priest’s penitential advice and thereby related to sloth, is a biologically female youth dressed as a boy and later physically transformed into a man. Medieval disability scholars have demonstrated that for premodern thinkers, religion and medicine were so intertwined as to be inseparable, especially in cases such as the management of sloth, where the symptoms of depression, despair, and sluggishness spanned the categorizes of physical and spiritual disease. Gower himself considers the God of Love to be both cause and physician of this ailment.

In “Unconfessing Transgender,” I contend that Gower’s text considers the medical definition and control of medieval “trans” bodies under the auspices of sin by presenting both Iphis’s problem and cure as socially constructed. The first part of this article explores “Divisioun and Dysphoria” to establish how Gower prefigures the modern social model of transgender as an experience of living in a world full of change and contradiction. In part two, the particular social forms of “divisioun” identified as “Acedia and Depression” signal Gower’s discussion of the sin of sloth that frames the “Tale of Iphis and Ianthe.” In the third part, I examine how Gower’s removal of the dysphoric youth’s voice and agency in the tale emphasizes the systematic character of suffering caused by a dysphoric Nature (represented by Isis) and a subjugating patriarchal Nature (represented by Eros).

For more information available at Transliterature Online (

“Sonnets Remixed” now exists in print


Announcement: The born-digital artistic and literary compilation Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed (previously discussed on this very blog) now exists in print! D Gilson, now an alumnus of The George Washington University, was its editor, and the collection includes contributions by GW faculty and gradute students. You can read the entire collection online at Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies or purchase a hard copy of the collection at Parlor Press.

EcoDH cluster published in PMLA


Announcement: A recent issue of PMLA features of cluster of articles on “the changing profession” entitled “Assembling the Ecological Digital Humanities” (or EcoDH for short). Jeffrey J. Cohen, Professor of English and Director of the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, co-edited this essay cluster with Stephanie LeMenager (University of Oregon). Appearing in this cluster is an article by Jonathan Hsy, co-director of the GW Digital Humanities Institute, entitled “Language Ecologies: Ethics, Community, and Digital Affect.”


GW English Grad Student D. Gilson Publishes Shakespeare Remix

Out of Sequence Sonnets Remixed

“Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed,” ed. D. Gilson [Cover art by Christopher Cunetto]

What would happen if over 150 students, poets, artists, and academics joined forces to creatively rewrite all of Shakespeare’s sonnets?

The result would be Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed (2014), a collaborative, mixed-genre collection edited by GW English PhD student D. Gilson. This multimedia publication was a collaborative project that had its origins in Gilson’s “call for contributors” over social media. In addition to a contribution by Gilson himself, Out of Sequence features works by GW English professors David McAleavey and Jonathan Hsy, PhD students Maia Gil’Adi, Sam Yates, Patrick Henry, and Dora Danylevich, and an afterword by Prof. Ayanna Thompson.

In an informative article that’s well worth reading, the GW Columbian College of Arts & Sciences newsletter characterizes Out of Sequence as a playful “multi-media free-for-all” that puts “prose and poetry alongside photographs, cartoons and sheet music” and breaks down boundaries between academic literary analysis and artistic creation. The article also includes engaging interviews with Gilson and some of the other contributors.

The entire collection is now available for free in online literary journal Upstart: A Journal of Renaissance Studies. It will also be available in print from Parlor Press.

To find out more about the genesis of this project, read this posting on GW English blog, and check out a provocative review of the collection in The Shakespeare Standard.