Friday, May 17, 2024

Fiona Bell awarded Kinsey Institute Scholars of Sexology Fellowship

Fiona Bell received 2024 Scholars of Sexology Fellowship from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

Fiona Bell is a Ph.D. candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University. Her dissertation traces the history of the “Russian woman,” a complex idea about sexuality and race that developed in the nineteenth century. The “Russian woman” was somatically but not always culturally white, sexually appealing and disgusting, robust and degenerate, docile and insurgent. Through close readings of works by canonical writers like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, alongside uncanonized texts by Avdotya Panaeva and Elsa Triolet, this dissertation not only studies representations of race and sexuality in Russian literature, but also indicates literature itself as a tool that makes race and gender: for its writers, characters, and readers.

At the Kinsey Institute, Fiona will expand her project by integrating sources from European and U.S. contexts: twentieth-century erotic novels about enserfed women in Imperial Russia, as well as Cold War femme fatale spy plots. Why have western writers and cultural producers—from Sade and Fourier to Krafft-Ebing and Freud, and many erotica and pornography producers working in their wake—associated Russianness with sexual deviance? By moving beyond the Russian context, Fiona hopes to identify the “Russian woman” as an important and undertheorized type in the global history of sexuality. Following her research at the Kinsey Institute, she will complete an annotated bibliography and public digital presentation on Cold-War-era Russia-themed erotica from the collections.

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