Joseph Gamble is a PhD candidate in the joint program in English & Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. His areas of teaching and research expertise include early modern English poetry and drama, including Shakespeare; the history of sexuality; affect studies; feminist and queer theory; and transgender studies.
His dissertation, Sex Lives of the Early Moderns, examines how people learned how to have sex in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Analyzing a wide variety of written and visual materials—poems, fictional prose, and playscripts; paintings, maps, and engravings; autobiographies and diaries; medical treatises and ethnographic writing; and parish and court records—Sex Lives argues that early modern sexual pedagogy was a fundamentally embodied process. Early moderns learned how to have sex by improvisation and fumbling around; by felicitous accidents and whispered tips; and by reading, watching, and viewing representations of sexual relationships on the stage, on the page, and on the walls around them. By hook and by crook, they figured out how to make their bodies fit with other bodies, and—just as importantly—how to understand and manage the emotions that accompanied their sexual relationships.
His second book-length project,Trans Philologies, is driven by a similar investment in the daily practices through which marginalized people create the conditions of their own flourishing. Where Sex Lives of the Early Moderns asks how early moderns wended their way toward sexual knowledge,Trans Philologies asks how contemporary gender nonconforming people render their lives livable in part by restructuring the English language. Trans folks of all stripes are constantly developing new words and bringing new meanings to old words. Such a life-making practice is, essentially, philological: it is invested in the history, use, and power of language as language. Many trans studies scholars, for instance, leverage what Eva Hayward and Jami Weinstein call “the prefixial nature of trans” as an analytic engine for their work, catalyzing their analyses of trans life and death, cultural production, or legal standing with philological methods such as etymology. Trans folks outside of the academy are also philologists when, for example, they defend the use of “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun by unearthing examples of its use through the history of English—including in, to use one example that carries particular cultural force, the works of Shakespeare.Trans Philologies argues that these surprising convergences of early modern and twenty-first century investments in the connection between language and gender can offer new ways to reimagine a trans-inclusive sex/gender system.”