Author Information

Aaron Bisson


The 20th-century British poet W. H. Auden is an interesting case when viewed through a queer lens because his expansive career brims with homoerotic (and equally homosexual) undertones. Given the historic persecution of homosexuals and others proclaimed “deviants” in his lifetime, it is not surprising that Auden guarded himself by masking sentiments regarding his sexuality below the surface of his writing, though not so much that one could not detect it if aware of the coded jargon of certain queer communities (Bozorth 709). What Auden has said regarding his sexuality—in both his poetry and prose—varies over time, creating difficulties in discerning a definitive, or perhaps “final” judgment of himself in an ethical and moral sense. Critics widely agree that Auden was conflicted and continued to be so for most of his life, coinciding with his shifting ideas of morality. When broken down into the heuristic “secular and sacred” view of Auden’s legacy (i.e. the view that his poetry shifted from propaganda to parable upon his emigration to the U.S.) one sees that this conflict persists despite different criteria. In his secular period, he suspected homosexuality was caused by some global psychological disorder, which people suffered universally and experienced in different forms psychosomatically; when he moved to America and “returned” to the Catholic faith of his childhood, his concern with homosexuality as illness diminished, though his focus now turned to its overtly sexual nature as a potential affront to the sanctity of marriage (Mendelson 365). Moreover, further research is necessary in discerning the nature of Auden’s views on his own sexuality as expressed in his writing— especially with respect to how these views coincide with his sense of religious faith.

Note on the Author

Aaron Bisson is a 2020 graduating senior majoring in English, with minors in Anthropology and African Studies. His research project was completed in the summer of 2019 under the mentorship of Professor James Norman (English) and made possible by the Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research summer grant. Aaron will pursue a Ph.D in English Literature at the University of Delaware, starting in Fall 2020.

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