Limits of Reticence

Auden, Merrill, and the Subject of Homosexuality
  • Piotr K. Gwiazda
Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)


When Merrill began publishing the successive installments of his Ouija board trilogy in the mid-1970s, there was no other figure than Auden who better exemplified the idea of a great poet who also happened to be a gay poet. In fact, one of the most fascinating aspects of the second and third volume of The Changing Light at Sandover is that they offer a portrait of the gay Auden (as seen through Merrill’s eyes) before biographers and critics turned their attention to this particular feature of his life and work. Scholarship has only recently caught up with the importance of Auden’s homosexuality to his poetic oeuvre. The lack of informed commentary on the subject in previous decades has been remedied by increasingly candid biographies of the poet and by critical studies that approach his poetry from the vantage point of queer theory. While those who analyze Auden’s queer aesthetics do not always agree on everything, they at least agree on the fact that the poet’s personal life can shed much light on his writings. As it turns out, Auden continuously performed the work of gay philosophy, not only in his letters and journals and occasionally in his published essays but also—and certainly most compellingly—in his poetry.1


Sexual Orientation Sexual Desire Human Sexuality Mystical Experience Rhetorical Strategy 
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© Piotr K. Gwiazda 2007

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