Dr Kate Hext

Senior Lecturer

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Extension: 01326 254113

Telephone: 01326 254113

My research interests are focused on Aestheticism and Decadence, and their influences on twentieth-century literature, culture, and film. These interests are roughly located in the period 1860-1960, with current emphases on how  Decadent aesthetics evolved between 1890 and 1940.

I am motivated by questions regarding post-Darwinian reconceptions of individualism, the evolution of 'art for art's sake', its influence on British Modernism and on Hollywood film in the United States, Modernist conceptions of distinctly felt, sensual moments in time, and the dynamic relationship between 'philosophy' and 'literature'. Like any self-respecting aesthete, I also have an active interest in all sartorial matters and the art of cocktail-making. 

My main research project at present has a working title of 'The Legacies of Decadence in Early Hollywood'. It investigates how Aestheticist and Decadent aesthetics and principles were taken up by those who were to become pioneers of the Hollywood film industry. Amongst the -- often unlikely -- figures I am writing on as part of this project are Alla Nazimona, Ronald Firbank, Carl Van Vechten, Ben Hecht, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West, Evelyn Waugh, Kenneth Anger, Alfred Hitchcock and Vincente Minnelli. 

I have written extensively, and presented dozens of conference papers on, a range of the subjects mentioned above. In April 2015, I and Dr Alex Murray (Queen's University Belfast) organised a conference titled 'Aestheticism and Decadence in the Age of Modernism, 1895-1945', which addressed how the Aestheticist zeitgeist evolved after Wilde's imprisonment. Our essay collection developed out of this conference is under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press. Other essays I have in the process of publication include work on Henry James, Ben Hecht's Decadent stories and the creation of the gangster, Aestheticism's influence on British film, and Oscar Wilde's troubled relationship with Heraclitean time. 

In addition to these and the academic publications listed on my publications tab, I write occassional reviews for the TLS. This piece on Women Aesthetes is open-access: 'How to Be a Female Aesthete.'

I would be happy to hear from potential PhD students working of any of the areas or figures listed above, for supervision at either our Exeter or Penryn Campus.