Kit Heyam

Kit Heyam

Postgraduate Research Student

Summary: Interdisciplinary PhD graduate. Thesis entitled "Literary and historical representations of Edward II and his favourites, c.1305-1700". Pronouns: he/him.

Teaching Commitments:
Medieval Literature (Semester 1 2017-18)
Narratives of Witchcraft and Magic (Semester 2 2015-16, 2016-17)
Renaissance Literature (Semester 1 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18)
The Plays of Shakespeare (Semester 2, 2015)

Research interests

My research interests are in the field of medieval and early modern English literature, with a broad interest in the representation of transgressive sexual desire and behaviour. I am currently working on turning my PhD thesis, which explores the development of Edward II's historiographical reputation during the period 1305-1700, into a monograph; developing my next major research project, 'Negotiating sexual content in early modern printed books'; and finalising an article relating to this project, entitled 'Indecent illustrations: paratexts and pornographic potential in seventeenth-century printed anatomies'.

My PhD thesis (School of English, University of Leeds, 2017) was entitled 'Literary and historical representations of Edward II and his favourites, c.1305-1700'. The thesis investigates references to Edward II’s close relationships with his male favourites in medieval and early modern England, encompassing chronicle/historical texts, drama, poetry and political writings. Although these texts are frequently brought to bear on debates concerning the sexual and/or romantic nature of Edward II's relationships with men, they are rarely considered as part of an accumulative, increasingly sensationalised myth surrounding him (which finds expression, for example, in the growth of a historiographical consensus concerning his murder by anal penetration with a red-hot spit). Moreover, analysis of these texts frequently displays anachronistic attitudes regarding the conception of sex (between men or otherwise) in the periods that produced them. My research therefore aims to contextualise these texts within both the historiographical development of Edward II's story, and a scholarly understanding of the history of sex. Close reading, as my central methodology, will both illuminate influences between texts and facilitate the responsible interrogation of what are frequently ambiguous descriptions. It provides a guide to medieval and early modern perceptions of Edward II’s sexual behaviour that is grounded in and informed by contemporary attitudes.

My next planned research project combines my specialism in early modern negotiations of sexual transgression with my ongoing interest in paratexts and the history of the book. 'Negotiating sexual content in early modern printed books' asks how sexual content was framed and negotiated in medical books, histories, religious books, romances and poetry produced in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, using a large corpus of primary sources to analyse differences of practice between genres, printers, and decades. Focusing on texts that were not primarily framed as titillation, it re-situates the reading of sex as an everyday activity. Building on Thauvette’s definition of early modern pornography as a ‘reading process’, it considers these texts to have pornographic potential, focusing additionally on paratexts as sites where writers, printers, publishers and readers negotiated and engaged with this potential. 

Public engagement

In 2015-16, I curated the exhibition For All Time: Shakespeare In Yorkshire at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery. Showcasing the Brotherton’s English Literature collection, the exhibition explored Shakespeare’s engagement with English (particularly Yorkshire) history, and the ways in which directors and actors continue to use his work to ask questions about regional identity.

In 2016-17, I led the curatorial team on York Out of the Closet: 50 Years of LGBT History at York Castle Museum. The exhibition combined oral histories, loaned objects and photographs to tell the story of LGBT life in York – focusing on social life, activism, crime, health and the history of York Pride – from 1967-2017.

I am an assistant coordinator of the charity York LGBT History Month. I was the lead coordinator from 2016-17, and was the school outreach coordinator from 2014-16. I also coordinate Rainbow Plaques, a  participatory public history project which invites members of the public to  make DIY cardboard plaques marking places significant to local, national or personal LGBT history.


Claire Corkill and Kit Heyam, ‘Gender nonconformity and military internment: curating the Knockaloe slides’, Critical Military Studies: Special Issue, ‘Curating Conflict’ (forthcoming)

Book review: ‘John S. Garrison, Friendship and queer theory in the Renaissance: gender and sexuality in early modern England’, The Seventeenth Century 30:4 (2015), pp. 486-488

‘York Lesbian Arts Festival, 2000-2008: “It was like we took over the city…”’, Queer Beyond London (24/05/2017)

‘Maleficent favourites: seductive bewitchment at the English court’, NOTCHES: remarks on the history of sexuality (29/11/2016)

‘Rainbow plaques: mapping York’s LGBT history’, NOTCHES: remarks on the history of sexuality (23/07/2015)

‘Beyond penetration: rethinking the murder of Edward II’, NOTCHES: remarks on the history of sexuality (24/03/2015)


I am available for TV and radio as an expert in LGBT history and trans equality. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss this.


That’s York! TV:  Interview as coordinator of Rainbow Plaques project, Feb 2018

Undisclosed production company: Consultancy as expert historian on Edward II and James I for Britain’s LGBT Monarchs, under development (Feb 2018)

BBC2: Guest expert on sex between men and gender nonconformity in 17th-century France, Inside Versailles, June 2016 

Made In Leeds TV: Interview as co-curator of For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire exhibition, September 2016

BBC Radio Leeds: Interview as co-curator of For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire exhibition, September 2016

BBC Radio York: Interview on gender identity clinic waiting times, August 2016; Interview as coordinator of York LGBT History Month on Anne Lister and Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, March 2015

Conference papers

‘Close reading and Edward II’s reputation’ (English: Shared Futures: Newcastle, July 2017)

"Gender nonconformity at Knockaloe internment camp: representing polyvocal narratives" (co-presented with Claire Corkill, Council for British Archaeology, at Exhibiting Gender, Curating Conflict: University of Bristol, June 2017)

"‘Amongst Christians not to be named’: the importance of legal idiom to the study of sex between men in early modern England" (Sexing the Past: University of Liverpool, March 2017)

"Politicising and legitimising the minion in Marlowe's Edward II" (Society for Renaissance Studies biennial conference: University of Glasgow, July 2016)

"Excessive love at the court of Edward II" (International Medieval Congress: University of Leeds, July 2016)

"Personal negotiations of hetero- and cisnormativity in research and teaching" (Academia and Affect: University of Sheffield, June 2016)

"Reading sodomy in the historiography of Edward II" (invited speaker at Approaching the Medieval reading group, March 2016)

"Is literature LGBT history? The case of Edward II" (What is and how to do LGBT History: University of Manchester/Manchester Metropolitan University, February 2016)

"Medieval languages, modern assumptions: a call for interrogative translation" (What Is And How To Do LGBT History: Manchester, February 2015)

"The performative body of Edward II" (Society for Renaissance Studies Biennial Conference - Performative Spaces: University of Southampton, July 2014)

"'Amongst Christians not to be named': discursive censorship of homosexuality in Elizabethan poetry" (Censorship and Deviance: University of St Andrews, July 2013)

"'Indecent illustrations': paratexts and pornographic potentiality in seventeenth-century anatomies"(Erotica, Pornography, and the Obscene in Europe, 1600-1900: University of Warwick, April 2013)