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Queer Theory and Poetic Theory

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Organizer: Chad Bennett

Co-Organizer: Brian Glavey

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Over two decades after the publication of the groundbreaking 1997 collection Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction, edited by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, no comparable volume of theoretical engagements with poetry has appeared. This is not because of a lack of significant, queer critical accounts of poetry, then or now. Such accounts include writing by foundational queer theorists such as Lee Edelman, Thomas Yingling, Michael Warner, Michael Moon, and Sedgwick herself; this writing follows an even earlier tradition of influential lesbian-feminist poet-theorists including Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich. And even as queer studies has moved largely away from engagements with poetic (and indeed literary) texts, recent scholars and poets have continued to pursue queer readings in poetry, with particular energy around trans and genderqueer poetry and poetics and work by queer poets of color. Nonetheless, this rich body of work in queer poetics has emerged piecemeal, rather than as part of a sustained, collective effort to consolidate a line of inquiry and further a dialogue between queer and poetic theories.
This seminar seeks to reflect on and extend this dialogue, fostering discussion about new queer approaches to poetry (its production, circulation, and reception) and bringing into relief the vibrant critical tradition behind such readings. We welcome presentations that address the broader theoretical stakes and value—at a moment when the fields of both queer theory and lyric theory are undergoing substantive contestation and transformation, and the current renewed excitement surrounding poetry seems to be driven by queer poetry and poets—of an engaged queer poetics.

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