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Rethinking Queer Poetry: Queerness in the French Lyric Tradition from 1819 to 1918

  • Brown, Louise Alison
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
eScholarship - University of California
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Current conceptions of queer poetry focus solely on poetry written by a queer poet or poetry written about a queer subject-matter. Consequently, they rely on primarily biographical and thematic readings of poetic texts. In this dissertation, I argue that a poem’s queerness does not derive solely from the queer identity of its author or the queer nature of its thematic content, and I call for a critical approach to queer poetry that supplements its conventionally biographical and thematic readings with more literary and theoretical readings. In order to rethink current conceptions of queer poetry, I examine the nature of both queerness and poetry, and I explore the ways in which the two intersect. I situate this exploration in the French literary tradition of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a context marked by three cultural phenomena of particular interest – a revitalization of the lyric tradition, a burgeoning interest in non-normative sexual and gender identities, and the emergence of modernit� in the artistic domain. An examination of these intersecting phenomena provides a framework for exploring the intricate relation between poetry and queerness. On a discursive level, I demonstrate that the French lyric tradition of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is shaped by, and shapes in return, expressions and conceptions of queerness. And on a more theoretical level, I develop the notion of “literary queering” to demonstrate how a poem’s queerness can also result from its subversion or transgression of literary conventions such as the structure of the love lyric paradigm, the nature of versification, and the relation between text and page. As a result, I show that the literary field of queer poetry is in fact much larger and more diverse than we currently assume, and that a more comprehensive critical approach to queer poetry involves novel applications for both poetic theory and queer theory.

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