ENGL435 - American Poetry: American Sexual Poetics Revisited

Because of our approach to this in depth study of American poetry, this section of 435 is titled “American Sexual Poetics Revisited.” Many of the “major,” most canonized poets in American traditions are widely recognized as lesbian, gay, or queer (Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane), and the various sexual dynamics of American literary history will contextualize our study as we begin by focusing on Dickinson and Whitman. An intensive study of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer inscriptions in American poetry, this course will then examine the poetic productions and cultural reproductions of poets such as the diverse group collected into the Masquerade anthology, including these names you might well recognize: W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Willa Cather, Hart Crane, Countee Cullen, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, H.D., Angeline Weld Grimké, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Langston Hughes, Sarah Orne Jewett, Amy Lowell, Mina Loy, Claude McKay, Herman Melville, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Richard Bruce Nugent, Muriel Rukeyser, George Santayana, May Sarton, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau. Besides those, we will read Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Judy Grahn, and Minnie Bruce Pratt, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, Frank O’Hara, Paul Monette, May Swenson, and current poet laureate, Kay Ryan. While we will probe ways in which LGBT or queer expressions are inflected by issues of race, gender, class, and high/low culture, we will especially scrutinize ways in which the performances and receptions of poets identified (by themselves or others) as LGBT or queer may perpetuate, challenge, and modify cultural mythologies about sexualities and their relevance to national, literary, artistic, aesthetic, and political endeavors.

Written assignments will be a response paper, a short (2-3 pp.) paper and a longer, more ambitious essay (7-10 pp.) exploring in depth some aspect raised by our course of study, as well as regular participation in the discussion boards (this will count as one of your exams). Collaborative writing endeavors are welcomed. Our meetings will often depend upon group work for leading discussions in the individual sessions, and each class member will participate in a group presentation.


Two English courses in literature or permission of the department.