Benjamin Robbins is a postdoctoral researcher affiliated to the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. His current research focuses on twentieth-century queer exile literature in its transnational contexts. Robbins received his PhD from Freie Universität Berlin after completing his BA at Durham University and his MSt at Oxford University (both in the UK); his doctoral dissertation was titled Gender, Film, and Culture in the Novels and Screenwriting of William Faulkner. His work on modernism, popular culture, and gender studies has appeared in the Journal of Screenwriting, the Faulkner Journal, and Genre. His piece on Faulkner and the digital humanities, which was published in Studies in American Culture, recently received the Jerome Stern Award for the best article in the journal in 2016. In 2012 he was a Lillian Gary Taylor Visiting Fellow in American Literature at the University of Virginia.
My research concerns the ways in which queer exile writers influenced each other’s work and, therefore, the causality of creative exchange. This session will explore narratological and sociological models for establishing the causal dynamics of literary influence by analysing extracts from queer exile novels produced in inter-war Paris. The tools of narratology allow a literary scholar to analyse how units of story and discourse repeat across a group of texts. Rather than interpreting such patterns through the category of direct cause and effect, I will suggest that relationships between literary works are characterized by association and attachment (Bruno Latour) or strategic competition (Pierre Bourdieu).
Benjamin Robbins's current research project studies the Anglophone literature that arose from a range of global centres of queer community and creativity from the 1900s to the 1960s. He primarily considers the work of American and British writers who lived and produced work outside their native countries in Capri, Paris, Berlin, and Tangier. The shared situation of the authors he has selected is three-fold: they all experienced transnational dislocation, had queer sexualities/identities, and engaged in artistic creation. These multiple points of common identification led to the formation of transnational networks across North America, Europe, and North Africa that, through processes of circulation and exchange, Benjamin Robbins argues, led to the pooling of distinct narratological features across the corpus of literature they produced on the theme of queer exile.