Joseph Lavery specializes in Victorian literature and culture, treating “Victorian” as a transnational and transtemporal mode of representation, a capacious set of generic conventions and formal styles available from the 1830s to the present. His research gravitates to problems of Orientalism and aesthetics (the beauty of violence, and vice versa), working with Victorian novels, poetry, non-fiction, and cinema to write a transnational cultural history of aestheticism. That book project, entitled Empire in a Glass Case: Japanese Beauty and British Culture, develops an understanding of the British Japan-craze of the late nineteenth century as an ambivalent but hysterical response to the rise of the Japanese Empire; a response both amplified and contested in the Japanese reception of Victorian literature and culture into the twentieth century and beyond. More locally, he is working on projects concerned with the gendered dynamics of weakness as cultivated by ‘light’ opera; the figure of the samurai sword in Noguchi, Yeats, and Tarantino; ornamentation as a problem for fin-de-siècle theories of value; a materialist conception of pornography; and the queer genesis of Peter and Wendy.
Lavery joined the Berkeley English department in 2013, after having completed my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds an MA in Critical Theory from the University of Sussex and a BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford. His essay, “The Victorian Counterarchive: Mikimoto Ryuzo, John Ruskin, and Affirmative Reading” won the ACLA’s A. Owen Aldridge prize and appeared in Comparative Literature Studies.