Bryn Mawr College Professor of English Kate Thomas is not afraid to stir the (tea) pot.
The chair of the English department and newly appointed K. Laurence Stapleton Professor of English is teaching and analyzing chinaware as texts in her classes and as part of her lecture "Bone Body: English Potteries and Colonial Violence." Part of the Endowed Lecture Series, the talk takes place on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in Carpenter Library, Room B21. A reception in the London Room will follow.
“It might sound strange for an English professor,” Thomas says, “But I’m to be talking about a bone china plate. It’s a gilt-edged, pink-scrolled, gorgeous piece of china that was made in Staffordshire in England sometime around 1815 or 1816, having been commissioned by a prince in India. It was shipped to him and held in his palace there, and later by his successor, who then found himself at the center of a conflict known as the First War of Indian Independence.”
Throughout her academic career, Thomas has been interested in studying texts in addition to those found between the covers of a book. The texts she analyzes and researches are found everywhere, from the British postal system to Victorian foods and eating culture. This china plate isn’t just another antique; it was an agent in a pivotal moment in colonial history.
“This plate that was in the palace survived horrible violence and looting on the part of the English troops and actually was stolen by English troops and removed back to England,” Thomas says. “I'm interested in tracing the pathway of this delicate piece of china, and how it traces the complexity of colonial relations between England and India in the 19th century.”
In addition to her aforementioned research interests, Thomas also published on Victorian temporalities and queer theory in SAQ and GLQ, and is working on a book of these topics titled Lesbian Immortalities. Her many popular courses taught include Victorian Media; Eating Culture; Victorian Literature and Culture; Here and Queer: Placing Sexuality; Food Revolutions; and Lesbian Immortal.
“Bryn Mawr has a dedication to public scholarship,” says Thomas of her upcoming lecture. “It’s at the heart of what we do here. And I think a lecture like this is an opportunity to share our interests together, and the new work professors here are doing, so that we get to have the kind of conversation and debate that is central to academic enterprise. An event like this says, 'This is the heart of what we believe in here, which is getting the opportunity to learn new things, see new things, and talk about it together.'”