Date of Award

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Rebecca Dunham

Committee Members

Kimberly Blaeser, Brenda Cardenas, Cary Costello, Jason Puskar


Kinship, Patriarchy, Poetry, Queer, Turing


This dissertation explores queer kinship and masculinity in an extended poetic sequence. The speakers of these poems attempt to understand the ways that family shapes our sense of gendered identity, particularly how masculinity is constructed and perpetuated through a history of gendered violence in western culture. Investigating the shame of failed masculinity and unsanctioned identity through a range of aesthetic positions, these poems interrogate the tradition of English language poetry as a space where masculinity is both blurred and reinscribed.

In three sections, the collection considers the relationship between paternity and patriarchy, and how queer identity offers alternative aesthetic positions to those structures and histories.

The first section explores these themes through a specific narrative lens: the British government’s persecution of Alan Turing, forcing him to undergo chemical castration for the crime of homosexuality. Many of the poems in False Spring seek alternate ways of tracing legacy that could uncover new aesthetic modes to describe masculinity.

There is no one form prized here, though many forms are explored, from lyric-narrative poetry to the verse play. Masculinity is perceived as a privileged position in our culture—granted such privilege by patriarchal hierarchies that value certain presentations of maleness—yet masculinity, like femininity, exists in various forms. The second section, encounters a more contemporary speaker who struggles with daddy issues, both familial and sexual. These take the form of a crown of experimental sonnets, thinking primarily about the pivot of the volta as a forced mechanism for logical conclusion and structure.

The final section interrogates whether masculinity as a poetic subject can evolve through openly political and queer poems. There is a power both in the reclamation of lost forms (such as the closet drama) and in words (as “queer” itself illustrates). The range of poetic possibilities explored here reflects the spectrum of identity and positionality that queerness offers.

Ultimately, this collection, as queer poetic experiment, is an argument about the nature of social processes and our particular inherited present. These poems seek a narrative understanding of the self somewhere beyond identity construction.