I am an interdisciplinary scholar whose work focuses on developing new methodological approaches to transgressive gender and sexuality in historical literature and culture, both in academic research and in curatorial practice.
I have taken this interest in two key directions: exploring how academic and curatorial practice might creatively respond to contemporary political arguments which seek to delegitimise trans experience by denying its historicity, and thinking about the construction of sexuality and sexual knowledge as a literary process rooted in genre and the literary marketplace.
Trade/academic crossover book
My book Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender (Basic Books UK/Seal Press, 2022) proposes a new approach to global trans history rooted in care, decolonial practice and cognisance of contemporary politics. As such, it represents a significant contribution to trans studies, providing a new methodological approach to contested histories of gender nonconformity in which gender is often culturally specific or inextricable from other experiences such as social role, sexuality and theatrical performance. It draws on both literary and historical sources, and argues that literary methodologies can help us to recognise our affective connection to the past and to shape an ethics of historiographical care for past and contemporary subjects. This book is a scholarly text for a public audience, and I have worked with a REF-assessor colleague to shape it in response to the REF criteria.
For reviews and more information, see Writing.
My first monograph, The Reputation of Edward II, 1305-1695: A Literary Transformation of History, is out now with Amsterdam University Press. Click here to download the table of contents and introduction.
This book is the first project to analyse the development of Edward II’s sexual and political reputation in the four centuries after his death – including the origins of the consensus that his relationships with his favourites were sexual and romantic and that he was murdered by anal penetration with a red-hot spit, but also his significance as a paradigmatic exemplum of favouritism and deposition in early modern England and France.
The book also has significant implications for how we think about literature and history, both as disciplines and as genres. My research reveals that the most significant shifts in Edward’s reputation were instigated by literary decisions made by chroniclers: decisions which emphasised sensational detail, emotional engagement, and narrative structure, in order to engage their readers and thereby compete within the print marketplace.
Edited volumes forthcoming
Volume editor for 1400-1800 volume, A Cultural History of Gender, ed. by Susan Broomhall (forthcoming, Bloomsbury, 2025)
Kit Heyam and Jon Ward (eds.), Forging a Home for Ourselves: New and Decolonial Approaches to Gender Nonconformity (under review, Bloomsbury Academic)
James Daybell and Kit Heyam, ‘Gendering Material Objects in Heritage Practice’, in The Routledge International Handbook on Heritage and Gender, ed. by Jenna C. Ashton (2023)
‘Negotiating sexual content in vernacular medical books: writers, printers, readers’, in Rewriting Medicine, ed. by Clark Lawlor, Ashleigh Blackwood and Leigh Wetherall Dickson (2023)
‘Reading Early Modern Sonnets in the Queer Classroom’, in Teaching the New English: Poetry and Poetics, ed. by Richard Stacey (forthcoming, Palgrave, 2023)
‘Former Guildford Hotel, Leeds’, ‘Former Knockaloe Internment Camp, Isle of Man’, and ‘Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York’, in Queer Spaces, ed. by Adam Nathaniel Furman and Joshua Mardell (Royal Institute of British Architects, 2022)
‘Performing Historical Monarchs: Beyond the History Play’, Royal Studies Journal Special Issue: Performing Royal Power in Premodern Europe (2021)
James Daybell, Kit Heyam, Svante Norrhem and Emma Severinsson, ‘Gendering Objects at the V&A and Vasa Museums’, Museum International: Special Issue, ‘Museums and Gender’ (2020) DOI: 10.1080/13500775.2020.1779465
‘Gender nonconformity and military internment: curating the Knockaloe slides’, Critical Military Studies: Special Issue, ‘Curating Conflict’ (2019) DOI:10.1080/23337486.2019.1651045
‘Paratexts and pornographic potential in seventeenth-century anatomy books’, The Seventeenth Century (2018) DOI:10.1080/0268117X.2018.1506355
‘Creating trans-inclusive libraries: the UX perspective’, in User Experience in Libraries: Yearbook 2018, ed. by Andy Priestner (UX In Libraries, 2018), pp. 36-51