Empire of Culture: Neo-Victorian Narratives in the Global Creative Economy
My book project extends my PhD dissertation to examine representations of Victorian Britain in a wide array of contemporary cultural texts and practices, both “literary” and “popular,” from four geographical locations: Britain, the United States, Japan, and Singapore. By close-reading cultural materials ranging from A. S. Byatt’s novel Possession and its Hollywood film adaptation to Lolita fashion and the Lady Victorian manga series, Empire of Culture draws on contemporary narratives that look back on Victorian Britain to uncover the postcolonial politics of cultural commodity production, export, and consumption in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Neo-Victorian texts and practices from Britain, the US, Japan, and Singapore reveal that the dissemination of British food, dress, etiquette, and especially English Literature in the long 19th century has given rise to the idea that British culture is a universal standard of civilisational progress. This idea has in turn contributed to the formation of three cultural empires in the global “creative economy” today: one founded on British high culture and heritage, one on the global reach of multinational media corporations based in the US, and the third on Japanese popular culture. It is the historical circulation of Englishness as universal culture that fuels the British heritage industry today, while also bringing it into competition and collaboration with the other two cultural empires. Furthermore, this continuing idealisation of Englishness informs not only cultural commodity production but also consumption in places such as Singapore, where it forms the backdrop against which consumers negotiate between the diverse offerings of the three cultural empires.
Fifty Shades of Grey
"Spreading the Word: What Fifty Shades of Grey Means for World Literature"
I am currently working on a journal article on the Fifty Shades trilogy, which derives from a teaching assignment for the "Modern World Literatures" course I taught at Warwick in 2015/2016. How does the global popularity of Fifty Shades complicate our understanding of World Literature as “literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin,” and which are “actively present within a literary system beyond that of its original culture” (Damrosch 2003)? By applying the practice of close reading to a novel few would call “literature,” this article uses Fifty Shades as a premise to rethink existing paradigms in the field of World Literature.
I have also published an op-ed piece on Fifty Shades for JSTOR Daily. "Fifty Shades of Affective Labour for Capital" was published on 17 January 2018 to coincide with the release of the Fifty Shades Freed movie adaptation.