ENGL379K - Special Topics in Literature: Sexual Poetics

This team-taught course will explore the erotics of American and British poetry from the nineteenth century to the present day. Many of the “major,” most canonized poets in the American and British traditions are widely recognized as lesbian, gay, or queer (Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Amy Levy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, Marilyn Hacker, Essex Hemphill, the previous American poet laureate Kay Ryan, and the current British poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy), and many others foreground sex, gender, and desire as key dynamics of their work (John Keats, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Sylvia Plath, just to name a few). Our class will take a transatlantic approach to thinking about poetry, combining the expertise of one specialist in American poetry and one in the British tradition. While we will probe ways in which poetic erotics 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.

 Classwork will include two essays (5 pages), active participation, and a final exam.

Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.