Date of Completion


Embargo Period



British literature, Romantic poetry, queer theory, gender, sexuality, poetry, poetics

Major Advisor

Charles Mahoney

Associate Advisor

Margaret Breen

Associate Advisor

Yohei Igarashi

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


“Formal Perversions: Queer Poetics and the Turn in Romantic Verse” troubles and redefines the relationships between queerness, history, and literary criticism through the study of poetry. This study focuses on poetry written during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that predate the establishment of firm sexual identity categories. “Formal Perversions” consequently asks how or why we might consider particular forms in poetry “queer” if the labels “homosexual” or “heterosexual” did not yet exist. Poetic forms are queer when they turn aside from, or pervert, contemporary gendered norms. In order to account for the complex relationships between poetic form and various histories, this study reads modern scholarship on queerness and poetry alongside Romantic-era texts. “Formal Perversions” thus examines specific moments in Romantic poetry in order to reconsider the relationship between Romantic literature, history, and society, with the goal of understanding how queerness might emerge in poetic form. Within their own time, Charlotte Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets, Leigh Hunt’s Story of Rimini, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Christabel, and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s use of alliteration were all critiqued as in some way illegible, unviable, incoherent, useless, or incomplete. Ultimately, however, this study will also prove valuable to those looking to study poetic forms, and forms of all kinds, and to consider the ethical questions of what it means to have a body, what it means for that body to be read, and how that body moves across time. As we do other forms, we read bodies, we sense their size and shape and limits, and we take their measure against what we know and what we expect. This study invites us to move and turn with these poems’ forms.

Available for download on Tuesday, April 30, 2030