ENGL439D - Major American Writers after 1865; Erotics, Dickinson, and American Women Poets

Also offered as LGBT448Y and WMST498Y. Credit granted for ENGL439D, LGBT448Y or WMST498Y.

Never married, so selective about whose company she kept that she has been called “reclusive” and even “nun-like,” Emily Dickinson has nevertheless been the subject of endless erotic speculation—heterosexual, queer, lesbian—most recently in a film featuring Sex in the City star Cynthia Nixon. Described as fiery and fun by all who actually knew her, Dickinson wrote poetry and letters that are infused with the erotic. This course explores the archives of her queer lives and queer status in American literary history, the 21st-century digital archives and editions produced about her work and lives, the physical archives of her work that one finds in special collections of libraries, the erotic archives of women poets who followed her, and the archives of our attentions as readers. An intensive study of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer inscriptions by Dickinson, this course also examines inscriptions in the legacies of American poetry and culture that she has inspired, especially in contemporary poetry—Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Marilyn Hacker and others. Probing how her work and legacies are evident in poetic heirs (see Titanic Operas: Contemporary Poets’ Responses to Dickinson’s Legacy), as well as how they have been translated into different media (films, TV shows, drama, multimedia performances, rock & roll) and are inflected by issues of race, gender, class, and high/low culture, we will scrutinize ways in which the performances and receptions of this icon of American literary history may perpetuate, challenge, and modify national and international cultural mythologies.  Written assignments will be two 1-2 pp. response papers, a 2-3 pp. proposal essay for a longer, and a more ambitious essay (7-10 pp.) exploring in depth some aspect raised by our course of study.