This dissertation analyzes deviant sexuality in Modernist poetry at the turn of the twentieth century. It concentrates on the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, Stefan George, and Federico García Lorca. The major line of argument is that in the Modernist era the poetic treatment of deviant sexuality relied on the creation of metaphors. This dissertation posits that in Modernist poetry, given the pervasive homophobic atmosphere of the time, the expression of queer desire required subterfuge. Queer desire could be presented only when sufficiently encoded. Another hypothesis of this dissertation is that among these codifications for queerness, metaphor occupied a prominent place because it shared an important conceptual characteristic with the very phenomenon it mediated. Metaphor, while regulatory for a minority nonetheless operates deviantly for a majority, much in the same way as queer sexualities appear deviant to heteronormative thinking about desire yet remain paradoxically regulatory for queer-sensitive readers. For queer-sensitive readers, metaphor and queerness functioned centrally, the hidden deviance of the heteronormative being the disclosed norm of the queer. In short, for queer-sensitive readers, metaphoric expression is informative and meaningful. This dissertation condenses this paradox into the term queer metaphor.
This dissertation consists of three major parts, each containing three chapters. Part I of the dissertation brings linguistic deviance (metaphor) and sexual deviance (queerness) together to establish the conceptual framework within which Modernist poetry will be examined. In Chapter 1 of Part I, Paul Ricoeur provides a starting point for a discussion of the conflicting views on metaphorical meaning, comparing his notion of the métaphore vive to the concepts of Aristotle, I. A. Richards, Max Black, and others, arguing that from the outset the concept of metaphor has to include idiosyncratic perception rooted in the parole and not rely on the dictionary meaning of the officially controlled standard language system (langue). Chapter 2 reconstructs the history of sexual deviance as a constantly changing pattern. It probes the changing discourse on sexual practices throughout history to show that each age and society includes different things under the same umbrella of sexual deviance. Chapter 3 brings the conclusions of Chapters 1 and 2 together to develop the tools with which the poetry of the Modernist era will be analyzed. It draws upon theories by critics such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Lee Edelman, James Creech, and others, and defines what will be called queer metaphor, that is, a living metaphor textualizing a queer discourse at odds with the socio-sexual norms of the time.
Part II looks directly at the poetry of Rimbaud, George, and Lorca, and offers close readings. It analyzes the performance of queerness in their writings and maps out the various metaphorical strategies that make this performance possible. Chapter 1 focuses on the notion of the open secret. Chapter 2 analyzes what is called a distancing discourse. It shows how queer metaphor is combined with certain themes to camouflage queer contents. Chapter 3 demonstrates that the contemporary notion of a homosexual romantic idyll was foreign to the Modernist period. Instead of a queer idyll, Modernist poetry represents queer sexuality as conflictual and violent.
Part III discusses what is called the paradigm of inversion in this dissertation, that is, the conceptual platform for the staging of deviant sexual acts analyzed in the second part. This part illustrates that inversion was not just another sexological term for homosexuality throughout the Modernist era but a category that was carried into the literary domain as a basic principle. Chapter 1 concentrates on the foil against which much of the paradigm of inversion was constructed, i.e., the female. Dwelling on the various strategies of gender inversion, Chapter 2 shows how it is couched in a less taboo subject, the tradition of pederasty, or made part of ancient myths. Chapter 3 studies the Aufhebung of the principle of inversion in the poetry of the three poets under consideration, and its representation in the guise of George's Übergeschlechtlichtlichkeit, of which the ultimate form is the union with God. This strategy presents the ultimate subterfuge to conceal and yet reveal queerness in a largely homophobic age, and to universalize what primarily concerned only a social minority. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)