Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Prof. Julie Carr

Abstract

In the poetry of James Merrill, and in his later work in particular, the poet clearly, sometimes even ostentatiously, utilizes a particular blend of gay sensibility and camp aesthetic to frame and enhance the meanings of his poems. Yet, critics and scholars often misread or disregard these poetic gestures and the poet’s sexuality in general, resulting in a diminished understanding of Merrill’s work. This study examines a line of Merrill’s poetry in which geologic and crystalline imagery are posed as emblems of queer experience in an effort to show the necessity of reading Merrill from a queer perspective. The emblems Merrill uses in these poems are firmly rooted in his personal experience and sexual development. Nevertheless they offer nuanced insight to any reader willing to engage them on their own terms, that is, with consideration for the poet’s personal, queer (read gay male of a certain era) context.

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