Ephemeral Arrangements: Materiality, Queerness, and Coalition in U. S. Modernist Poetry
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This dissertation searches for a body of queer modernist poetry while at the same time attempting to rework the definition of “queer.” In chapter I, I use a reconceptualization of queerness not as an abstract, theoretical rendering of the breakdown of identity categories but in its fundamental, historical sense: a political coalition made up of individuals with different subjective sexual identities who are similarly marginalized in decidedly sexual terms. Thus, this project seeks to locate texts that demonstrate moments of empathy, intersection, and cooperation between LGBT speakers, characters, or editors and people with different sexualities, races, or abilities. In this project, I avoid traditional, well-known texts of modernism in favor of recovering forgotten work by non-heterosexual authors who have been at one time or another marginalized in the canon and in society at large—Amy Lowell, Langston Hughes, and Hart Crane. In order to rediscover this overlooked work by formerly forgotten poets, the project utilizes archival research and a material methodology in which I analyze poems not just in the abstract but in their original, ephemeral locations and venues: archival manuscripts, little magazines, and book-length collections. In chapter II, I uncover an experimental editorial method that Lowell pioneered in her Some Imagist Poets anthologies in which, rather than selecting and editing the selection as a traditional editor, she offered equal space to each contributor to choose and arrange their own suite of poetry. In chapter III, I analyze Hughes’ “A House in Taos” in both its first publication in a Mexico-based literary journal then in one of his own understudied collections, arguing that the poem represents an interracial, bisexual triad. In the chapter on Crane, I analyze several versions of a poem about a young man with a cognitive disability with whom Crane was acquainted while vacationing in Cuba, showing that, when the poem is set outside of the U. S. border, the speaker evinces a deep empathy for the marginalized young man.