07 May

Tuesdays May 7 and 14, 7:00–9:00PM ET (Eastern Time)

Sex in Verse: A Seminar with Anahid Nersessian


Online (via Zoom)

Registration required:
Online, 2 sessions / $125

In this two-session seminar, Anahid Nersessian will lead students through the history of erotic poetry from the ancient world to the present day. In the first class, we’ll explore the Sumerian and Greco-Roman traditions of sexual lyric, then go on to read a number of Renaissance poems by writers as famous as Shakespeare and as relatively obscure as the French poets Madeleine de l'Aubespine and Louise Labé. In the second class, we’ll turn to late-twentieth-century and contemporary writers like Bernadette Mayer, Assotto Saint, Maggie Millner, Kay Gabriel, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Rosie Stockton to see how both poetry and sex have and haven’t changed since antiquity. The driving questions of the class include: What, if anything, distinguishes sexually explicit writing from pornography? Why is that distinction important to us? If poetry is, as Emily Dickinson suggested, an art of telling things “slant,” what happens to the poem when it has to be direct? How can a poem seduce or entice, and how might it also repel? What are the ethical stakes of making intimate experience public? How do queer writers adapt and overturn the conventions of heterosexual love poetry? There will be in-class reading and your instructor will circulate a list of suggested books for purchase.

Anahid Nersessian is the poetry editor of Granta magazine and a professor of English at UCLA. She is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and has also written for the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, New Left Review, Bidoun, Mousse magazine, the Paris Review, and other publications. Her most recent book is Keats’s Odes: A Lover’s Discourse.

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