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Auden's Games of Knowledge: Poetry and the Meanings of Homosexuality

by Richard R Bozorth Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 320 pages
AU$75.00 NZ$78.26
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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The first full-length consideration of Auden as a homosexual poet, this volume shows that Auden's career was tied to a process of gay self-interrogation unparalleled in modern poetry and argues that he was driven by a powerful yearning to comprehend the psychological, political, and ethical implications of same-sex desire.

Auden's theories about poetry in the 1930s and after reflected an intense concern with how to write publicly as a homosexual poet. That struggle was made manifest in his love poetry, which Bozorth argues constitutes a kind of 'erotic autobiography' exploring the distinct challenges of homosexual love.

Bozorth's approach is manifold, examining the poet's engagements with avant-garde poetics, gay subculture, psychoanalysis, leftist politics, and theology. This book proposes that from his early fascination with secret agent and trickster figures to his later theories of poetry as an I-Thou relation, Auden viewed poetry as a fictional but primal erotic encounter with the reader.

3. "Have you heard this one?'': Queer Revolution in Paid on Both Side and The Orators
1. "But who would get it?'': Sexual Politics and Coterie Poetry
4. "What we see depends on who's observing'': Politics and Authority in the 1930s
2. "The question is what do we mean by sex'': Diagnosis and Disorder
5. "Tell me the truth about love'': Confessional Lyric and Lovers' Discourses
6. "Just what Appearances He saves'': God and the Unspeakable
Afterword: Auden's Biases--and Ours

Bozorth's splendid study of Auden's position as a poet of "erotic autobiography" is the first serious attempt to place Auden's homosexuality at the core of his poetic output. For the most part avoiding the self-involved rhetoric of queer studies, Bozorth offers a convincing demonstration that... Auden's poetry is a dialogue in which same-sex desire is the means by which the poet explores both who he is and what he values in a world of uncertain relations.
Richard R. Bozorth is assistant professor of English at Southern Methodist University.