Skip to main content



Photo of Professor Jana Funke

Professor Jana Funke

Associate Professor of English and Sexuality Studies


01392 725612

My research focuses on modernist literature and culture, the history of sexuality, sexual science and medicine, and feminist studies and queer theory. Books include The World and Other Unpublished Works by Radclyffe Hall (MUP, 2016), which was featured on BBC Radio 4 Open Book, and the co-edited volumes Sex, Gender and Time in Fiction and Culture (Palgrave, 2011) and Sculpture, Sexuality and History: Encounters in Literature, Culture and the Arts (forthcoming with Palgrave, 2018). In 2015, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Joint Investigator Award to direct (together with Kate Fisher) a major five-year project on the cross-disciplinary history of sexual science. In 2014, I was selected to participate in the AHRC and Wellcome Trust-funded New Generations in Medical Humanities Programme. I am strongly committed to making my research accessible to wider audiences and collaborating with non-academic publics. Past work includes Orlando: The Queer Element (led by Clay & Diamonds), the Transvengers (led by Gendered Intelligence), Dangerous Influences (in collaboration with Dreadnought South West) and various contributions to the Wellcome Collection’s Institute of Sexology Exhibition and its engagement programme, Sexology Season

Key interests:

  • Modernist Literature and Culture
  • History of Sexuality
  • Medical Humanities
  • Sexual Science and Medicine
  • Feminist Theory, Gender Studies and Queer Theory

You can sign up for my Office Hours here: You can find me in Room 155, Queen's East Wing. 


Twitter: @drjanafunke

Research interests

I am a literary scholar by training and based in the English Department. I am also a member of the Centre for Medical History at Exeter. I am interested in developing new inter- and cross-disciplinary approaches to explore how understandings of gender and sexuality are produced at the intersections of literature, medicine and science. 

Modernist Studies

My work seeks to revise scholarly understandings of how gender and sexuality are constructed in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature and culture. I have published several chapters and articles as well as a book entitled The World and Other Unpublished Works by Radclyffe Hall (MUP, 2016). The volume presents a range of new archival materials, including short stories and an unfinished novel. It offers a revisionary reading of Radclyffe Hall's writings and reassesses her place in early twentieth-century culture. 

I am also writing a monograph entitled Sexual Modernism: Sexual Science, Femininity and Subjectivity. This book calls for a new understanding of the relation between sexual science and literary modernism, focusing, in particular, on the relation between modernist women writing and sexual science. Interdisciplinary in scope, the book reconceptualises sexual science as a broad field, incorporating Darwinian evolutionary and racial science, sexology or ‘sex psychology’, psychoanalysis, hypnotism, theosophy, spiritualism and endocrinology. It opens up new understandings of these scientific debates and, in so doing, pioneers original readings of a wide range of literary works by canonical and non-canonical British writers of the interwar period such as Bryher, H.D., Radclyffe Hall, Mina Loy, May Sinclair, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Una Troubridge, Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. 

History of Sexuality

I have published a number of chapters and articles on the history of sexual science and medicine, specifically in England and Germany.

In 2015, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Joint Investigator Award to direct a 5-year project on “The Cross-Disciplinary Invention of Sexuality: Sexual Science Beyond the Medical, 1890-1940” together with Kate Fisher. The project seeks to explore the cross-disciplinary exchange between medical and non-medical forms of knowledge at the heart of early sexual science. It will result in a number of publications, including a substantial research monograph, jointly co-authored with Kate Fisher, which will offer a new history of sexual science and reconsider historical narratives concerning the modern invention of sexuality. The project will also raise broader questions about the dynamics of cross-disciplinary exchange and seek to intervene in debates about sexual health and wellbeing today through an ambitious public engagement and impact programme.

From 2012-2014, supported by a British Academy Small Research Grant, I led an international network of scholars to work on a project entitled 'Interdisciplinary Readings: Havelock Ellis & Co.' The aim of the network was to consider the interdisciplinary nature of Havelock Ellis' writings and explore previously neglected aspects of his work. 

Medical Humanities

My interdisciplinary research has allowed me to lead developments in the Medical Humanities at Exeter and beyond. I have begun to explore Medical Humanities frameworks to address challenges around the medicalization of sex through engaged research activities (e.g. in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust and supported by the  ESRC). My leadership potential was recognised when I was chosen to participate in the 2014/2015 AHRC- and Wellcome-Trust-funded New Generations in Medical Humanities Programme. I also co-direct the Bodies, Knowledge and Identities subtheme as part of the College of Humanities' Medical Humanities Theme as well as the Sexual Knowledge Unit at the University of Exeter.

Feminist/Gender/Queer Theory

Feminist, gender and queer theory inform all of my work. My research has focused on feminist and queer approaches to time and temporality, and I have co-edited a volume of essays with Ben Davies, entitled Sex, Gender and Time in Fiction and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). This book explores the relationship between sexuality and time by drawing on different theoretical approaches and applying these to a variety of disciplinary contexts and historical moments. Examining modern art, literature, film, theory and the law, it demonstrates how queer and straight time intersect in complex and sometimes unexpected ways, calling for a radical rethinking of these categories.

Selected Conference and Presentations

· Keynote Lecture, PG Medical Humanities Conference, University of Exeter (28-29 July 2016)

·  European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, Stockholm (14-17 June 2016):  “Sexual Science, Women’s Writing and Sexual Modernism.” 

· (with Kate Fisher) Medical History Seminar, University of Warwick (12 May 2015): “Sexual Science Beyond the Medical.”

· Modernist Studies Association Conference (MSA16), Pittsburgh (5-9 November 2014): "Female Masochism, Sexual Autonomy and Sapphic Modernism."

· European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies Conference, University of Helsinki (29-31 August 2014): “‘What are the Islands to Me?’ Bryher, H.D. and the Heterotopic Island.” 

· Mediating History’s Materiality, 1700-1900 Workshop, University of Freiburg (forthcoming, 25-26 July 2014): “Desiring the Past: Archaeology, History and the Emergence of Western Sexual Science.” (invited)

· Keynote Lecture (with Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands) College of Humanities PGR Student Conference, University of Exeter (forthcoming, 28 April 2014):  “Sexual Futures.” 

· Plenary Paper, Beyond the Victorian/Modernist Divide Conference, University of Rouen (27-28 March 2014): “Sexual Science, Modernism and the Politics of Anti-Victorianism.” 

· Keynote Lecture (with Kate Fisher) Humanities Institute: Towards a Global History of Sexual Science, Dartmouth University, US (1 July 2013): "Encountering the Past: Global Histories and the Interdisciplinary Culture of Sexual Science.” 

· Alternative Modernisms Conference, University of Cardiff (15-19 May 2013): "The Adventure of Development: Bryher, Boyhood and Temporal Mobility.”

· (with Kate Fisher) Sexology and Translation Symposium, Birkbeck University (14-15 June 2012): “Translating the Past: Havelock Ellis as Historian.” (invited)

· Plenary Roundtable, Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary Woolf, International Virginia Woolf Conference, University of Saskatchewan (7-10 June 2012)

· (with Rebecca Langlands) Romosexuality Conference, University of Durham (16-18 April 2012): “Material Passion and Noble Spirit: Sexological Uses of Rome."

· British Society for Literature and Science Conference, University of Oxford (12-14 April 2012): “‘The Purifying Breath of Spring’: Havelock Ellis, Science and Literariness.” 

· Medicalization of Sex Conference, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (28-30 April 2011): “Sexual History Before The History of Sexuality? Constructions of the Past in Havelock Ellis’ Studies in the Psychology of Sex.”

· NeMLA Conference, Rutgers University, Panel on Interdisciplinary Studies and Women Modernists (7-10 April 2011): “Navigating Sexology: Bryher, Havelock Ellis, and the Adventure of Sex.”

· 1910 Centenary Conference, University of Glasgow (10-12 December 2010): “’the most beautiful thing I have ever written’: Freud’s Case Study of Leonardo da Vinci and Modernist Culture.”

· Sexualities In and Out of Time Conference, University of Edinburgh (28-29 November 2008): “N.O. Body’s Future: Sexual Intermediacy and Anticipation in the Case of Karl M. Baer.”

· NeMLA Conference, Buffalo, NY / Panel on ‘Queer Theory and Becoming’ (10-13 April 2008): “The Temporal Politics of Intersex.”

Research collaborations

Research supervision

I would be very happy to work with students interested in:

  • modernist literature and culture
  • history of sexuality
  • medical humanities
  • history of science and medicine, especially sexual science/medicine
  • LGBTQ+ history, literature and culture
  • feminist, gender and queer theory


Current PhD Students:

  • Christina Clover (Second Supervisor): Magical Realism in Lesbian Fiction (Creative Writing PhD)
  • Pichaya Wayprib (First Supervisor): Discovering Queer Victorians: Representations of Female Homosexuality in 19th-Century Britain and the Gothic Literature
  • Kazuki Yamada (50% Supervision): A Historical Perspective on Sexual Science, Medicine and Healthy Ageing
  • T. J. Zawadski (50% Supervison): Young Poland’s Sexual Sturm und Drang: Cross-Disciplinary Sexual Science in Poland

Past PhD Students:

External impact and engagement

I have extensive experiences engaging different publics with my research and have been actively involved in developing and running public engagement, engaged research and impact activities.

I have been a key academic collaborator on innovative public engagement and impact projects, including Orlando: The Queer Element (Clay & Diamonds) and Transvengers (Gendered Intelligence). I also worked with Dreadnought South West to develop a new performance, Dangerous Influences, based on my research on Radclyffe Hall and was interviewed by Mariella Frostrup on BBC Radio 4 Open Book (interview starts at 11:30). I have also run and contributed to several events as part of the Wellcome Trust's major Institute of Sexology Exhibition and the accompanying Sexology Season, including Sex in the Afternoon and Sexological Photographs as Evidence. I have delivered public lectures on my research at the V&A in London, M-Shed in Bristol, the People Museum in Manchester, the Exeter Phoenix and Picturehouse and many other locations.

Contribution to discipline

I regularly review articles, chapters and book manuscripts, e.g. for Palgrave, Broadview Press, Manchester University Press, Ashgate, modernism/modernity, Literature Compass, Journal of Lesbian Studies, Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, Women: A Cultural Review, Women's History Review, Pilgrimages: The Journal of Dorothy Richardson Studies, and Porn Studies. 

I am a member of the consultative group for Women: A Cultural Review and an honorary board member on the editorial team for Impact: The Journal of the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning at the University of Boston.

I am also a co-organiser of the Institute for Historical Research (IHR) History of Sexuality Seminar Series.

In addition, I have organised the following events:

  • Sexualities In and Out of Time Conference, University of Edinburgh (AHRC-funded; co-organised with Dr Ben Davies), November 2008
  • Desiring Statues: Statuary, Sexuality, and History, University of Exeter (Wellcome Trust-funded; co-organised with Jen Grove), April 2012
  • Havelock Ellis Colloquium, London (British Academy-funded), August 2012
  • Centre for Medical History Seminar Series, University of Exeter, 2012-2013
  • Sexual Futures Colloquium, University of Exeter (Wellcome Trust-funded; co-organised with Professor Kate Fisher and Dr Rebecca Langlands), forthcoming April 2014



I was educated at the Universities of Cologne (MA; with distinction), Oxford (MSt in English Studies, 1900-present day; with distinction) and Edinburgh (PhD, English Literature).

After finishing my PhD in June 2010 and spending some time in Austin, Texas as a Harry Ransom Center Fellow, I joined the Sexual History, Sexual Knowledge Project at the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, in August 2010. 

In September 2013, I joined the Department of English at the University of Exeter as an Advanced Research Fellow (HASS Strategy - Medical Humanities). This post led to a Lectureship in Medical Humanities in 2016.

Awards, Grants and Research Fellowships

  • 2015-2020: PI / Wellcome Trust Joint Investigator Award: "The Cross-Disciplinary Invention of Sexual Science: Sexual Science Beyond the Medical, 1890-1940" (with Kate Fisher)
  • 2015: Wellcome Trust Bursary for Public Engagement Masterclass
  • 2014: PI / ESRC Public Engagement Funding: "Making the Sexual Self" (Public engagement event as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, November 2014)
  • 2013: PI / HASS Development Funding: "The Medicalisation of Sex? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sexual Science" (with Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands)
  • 2013: Travel Grant for Keynote Address, Dartmouth University, Humanities Institute: “Towards a Global History of Sexual Science, 1880-1950”
  • 2012: Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship, Lilly Library: “Vita Sackville-West and the History of Marriage”
  • 2011-2013: PI / British Academy Small Research Grant, 'Interdisciplinary Readings: Havelock Ellis & Co.'
  • 2010: Harry Ransom Center Fellowship, 'The Short Fiction of Radclyffe Hall'
  • 2008: PI / AHRC Student-Led Initiative Grant, 'Sexualities In and Out of Time Conference' (with Ben Davies)
  • German National Academic Foundation Alumna (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)

Membership of Professional Bodies

  • MLA
  • NeMLA
  • BSHS
  • BSLS
  • SNoMS