The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality

The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality

The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality

The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality


This book posits that male homoeroticism is a crucial component of any comprehensive understanding of modernism and the crisis of modern masculine identity. Cole explores how homoerotic affect - instantiated in the works of Rimbaud, Crane and Eliot - contributes to queer theory, and shows what poetry has to offer critical inquiry. This book aims to re-establish an interest in poetry by integrating question of prosody and aesthetics with political literary study. Cole used the methodological insights of psychoanalysis, deconstruction and Marxism to elaborate the social significance of poetic experiment, and reinvigorate the concepts of affect and imagination, while arguing against antiformalist approaches to literature.


In the opening salvo of "A Boy's Life: For Matthew Shepard's Killers, What Does It Take to Pass as a Man?," a September 1999 Harper's Magazine article published eleven months after the murder, JoAnn Wypijewski sets out to distance her critical investigation from the more aesthetic and sentimental accounts preceding it. "From the beginning," she writes, "there was something too awfully iconic about the case" (61). After a preliminary outline of the "real and fanciful detail" surrounding the sequence of events in Laramie, Wyoming, Wypijewski provides a cautionary tale about the professional journalist, Melanie Thernstrom, who became too emotionally involved:

At the site where Shepard was murdered, in a field of prairie grass and sagebrush within eyeshot of suburban houses, a cross has been laid out in pink limestone rocks. In crotches of the killing fence, two stones have been placed; one bears the word 'love'; the other, 'forgive/The poignancy of those messages has been transmitted out and beyond via television; it is somewhat diminished if one knows that the stones were put there by a journalist, whose article about the murder for Vanity Fair was called The Crucifixion of Matthew Shepard.'

Torture is more easily imagined when masked in iconography but no better understood. (61)

It is doubtless that attention to the social conditions enabling homophobic aggression, or the spelling-out of how American culture engenders an always potentially violent masculinity, serves better political purpose than merely enshrining Shepard as a sacrificial hero. As Wypijewski argues, it is "the culture of compulsory heterosexuality," rather than Shepard's personality, that deserves interrogation (73). Whatever catharsis the tragedy of the individual sufferer renders available to its audience, or however much pathos the untimely death of an attractive young man elicits, would appear a poor substitute for cultural critique. Wypijewski's trenchant analysis,

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