Jack Sargent

Department: English
Discipline: English
Research Centre/Unit: Penryn Humanities

Project Summary

My PhD is provisionally entitled: Time, Aestheticism and Desire: The Aesthetics of Enduring Feeling within British Homosexual Literature 1870-1967.  

It analyses the aesthetic, emotive and cultural significance of time within British male homosexual literature in this period. I follow a literary, aesthetic vitalisation of the feeling of same-sex desire through the works of John Addington Symonds, A. E. Housman, E. M. Forster, Christopher Isherwood and Alan Hollinghurst. I argue that these writers engage with same-sex desire and intimacy in the period of homosexual illegality as a primarily emotional, rather than physical experience. I argue that they depict these emotions as enduring, amalgamating and complicating across time, within the individual experiences of memory, nostalgia and ageing.  As both a progression of, and an alternative to, the Paterian and Wildean emphasis on the potent, transgressive moment of pleasure, I explore how these writers construct same-sex desire as a culturally unique amalgamation of lust and loss, excitement and anxiety. I posit that, due to the illicit and illegal nature of homosexual desire in Britain 1870-1967, these emotions form aesthetic, poetic compounds across time, making the future and the past of desire uniquely poignant aesthetic and emotive spaces within this tradition   

Ultimately, this project aims to offer a corrective to hegemonic assumption made by Queer theory that the long-term, inherent within ideologies of the home, the long-term partnership, the family and monogamy, is "heteronormative". I argue that the long-term is considered by Symonds, Housman, Forster, Isherwood and Hollinghurst as personal and emotional, rather than political and institutional. I also assert that as such, aesthetic engagements complex consideration of the emotional significance of the long-term has formed a specifically homosexual cultural tradition since the inauguration of homosexuality   

Supervisory Team

First Supervisor: Dr. Kate Hext

Second Supervisor: Dr. Vike Martina Plock

​Mentor: Professor Nick Groom


Wider Research Interests

My current wider research interests span nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century British literature and culture. 

I am interested in literature of sexuality in this period, both male and female, mainstream and subcultural. Particularly, I am fascinated with the history of the ways in which same-sex desire has been policed, categorised and and understood by heterosexual cultures, as well as the emotional, personal stories of those engaging with homosexual desire.
My research considers the cultural history of relationships, intimacy, emotions, normalcy and queerness, and their representation within literature. Broadly speaking, I research on the importance of time to all these concerns, and the relationship been their historical definitions and their roles within contemporary culture. 
Another of my interests in Critical Theory, particularly relating to Queer theory, sexuality and gender studies, and the relationships between these discourses within contemporary culture.