Thursday 29 October, 6pm
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Matthew Reeve (Queen’s University) in conversation with Bob Mills (UCL), Freya Gowrley (University of Derby) and Luisa Calè (Birkbeck).

In his book, Gothic Architecture and Sexuality in the Circle of Horace Walpole, Matthew M. Reeve connects the Gothic style and the tradition of medievalist research associated with Horace Walpole (1717–1797) with the latter’s own homoerotic culture.

The Gothic style offered the possibility of an alternate aesthetic and gendered order, a queer reversal of the dominant Palladian style of the period. Centred around Walpole’s Gothic villa at Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, Walpole and his ‘Strawberry Committee’ of male friends, designers and dilettantes invigorated an extraordinary new mode of Gothic design.

Many of the houses built by Walpole and his circle were understood by commentators to be manifestations of a new queer aesthetic. In describing them they offered the earliest critiques of what would be called a ‘queer architecture.’ Reeve argues that the new ‘third sex’ of homoerotically inclined men and the new ‘modern styles’ that they promoted—including the Gothic style and chinoiserie—were interrelated movements that shaped English modernity.


Matthew M. Reeve (FSA) is Queen’s National Scholar and Associate Professor of Art History at Queen’s University and Chair of the Historians of British Art Book Prize. He has published extensively on medieval art and architecture, antiquarianism, and episodes of medievalism in modern art. He is currently working on monographs on English Gothic sculpture and Gothic art in Wales. 

Bob Mills is Professor of Medieval Studies and Head of the History of Art Department at UCL. Previously he directed UCL’s LGBTQ research network qUCL. His publications include Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure and Punishment in Medieval Culture (2005), Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages (2015) and Derek Jarman’s Medieval Modern(2018).

Freya Gowrley is Postdoctoral Fellow in History at the University of Derby. Her monograph, Domestic Space in Britain, 1750-1840: Materiality, Sociability and Emotion, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury Academic in 2021, and she has published articles in the Journal for Eighteenth-Century StudiesAphra Behn OnlineJournal 18, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. 

Luisa Calè is currently working on a monograph entitled ‘The Book Unbound: Material Cultures of Reading and Collecting, c.1750-1850’, with chapters on Walpole, Blake, and Dickens. She is on the steering group of the intercollegiate London-Paris Romanticism Seminar hosted by the Institute of English Studies, Senate House; she is a member of the Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group and of the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies. 


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