The figure of the Romantic Poet as solitary genius, moody and debauched, a tragic radical — perhaps beginning with the explosive celebrity of Lord Byron and his chin dimple and overt sexuality or Percy Shelley provocatively announcing his atheism in a hotel guest book — has continued to entice, to haunt, and to oppress, informing fantasies of what it is to be an artist, to live an artist’s life. For all the ways in which Byron, the Shelley’s, and all their friends did indeed find ways to live outside the most obviously normative structures of their time and place, they nevertheless re-perpetuated many of the same oppressive formations around gender, sexuality, desire, and race, maintaining patriarchal heteronormativity and white supremacy. In a way these romantics became like the punks Jack Halberstam describes in The Queer Art of Failure whose rejection of certain neoliberal normative structures remained far too limited to be truly transgressive so long as their “refusals cling fast to the status quo because they cannot imagine the downfall of the white male as part of the emergence of a new order.” Considering this, how else might we imagine the romantic, should we want to do so? What might a truly radical romantic, a queer romantic, a failed romantic, look like?
Following Audre Lorde’s theories of the erotic and Kim TallBear’s writing against settler sexuality, we will imagine another romantic, and another romance. Readings will include Mary Shelley, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Hannah Weiner, Eileen Myles, Samuel Delany, Joey de Jesus, Elaine Kahn, Simone White, and others.