ENGLISH 340 - Studies in Poetry
Fall 2021, Section 001 - Queer Poetics
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is   Hybrid (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


First, let’s acknowledge that it’s not always easy to say what makes a poem queer—but everyone should be able to agree on the fact that some poems are made up of material from the lives and hearts and minds of queer people—in both explicit and implicit ways. Queer love and romance, queer desire and sex, the complexities of gender, gender identity, and gender norms—there’s a whole world of poetry that allows us as readers to see these things in action through the (sometimes strange) performance of language that poetry invites us to witness. And because the mode of witnessing that poetry allows for is different from, say, what we might experience in a documentary mode—or even other literary genres like the fictional or the dramatic—poems can give us a special entry point into discussions of queerness, leading to questions and insights that can be harder to get to with other approaches. When Mark Doty asks, for example, in his book Atlantis, which chronicles his last days living on Cape Cod with his lover Wally, who was dying of AIDS: “What is a description, after all, / but encoded desire?” or when Natalie Diaz, in her Postcolonial Love Poem, writes: “Like any desert, I learn myself by what’s desired of me— / and I am demoned by those desires,” the poetry puts us right in the middle of these two queer poets’ lives, and allows us to ask questions about how desire works in those lives, what desire even is, really, and how it might differ from other, heteronormative ways we’ve understood desire in non-queer texts and spaces.

The premise for our class, then, is simple: We will dedicate ourselves to reading some important queer American poets (including Diaz and Doty) for the purpose of thinking about what they might have to teach us about poetry, queerness, and/or the relationship between poetry and queerness. We’ll spend much if not most of our time reading entire books (rather than single poems anthologized), and the majority of those books will be written in the last 20-30 years (though because both queerness and history extend well beyond 20-30 years ago, so will we).

Our class meetings will be largely based on the discussion, sharing, and in-class writing; come with an eagerness to make thoughts, to exchange them with others, to complicate and refine them, and, with the academic community that we’ll build together in class, to practice the work of intellectual exploration that can lead to deep reading and sophisticated critical writing. Attendance in these class meetings is not mandatory, though: Students will be able to choose a completely independent track, reading and writing largely on their own with no weekly participation in class; a track that involves attending our regular class meetings; or they may alternate learning modes as we move through the semester. Expect regular, weekly, credit/no-credit writing exercises as well as one or two big analytical essays to make up the bulk of your academic work over the course of the term.


ENGLISH 340 - Studies in Poetry
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM
002 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM

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