Eric Keenaghan

Associate Professor 

Affiliate Faculty with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 

Director of the English Honors Program

Ph.D. Temple University

Poetry Studies, Modernist Studies, Political Theory, Queer and Gender Theory

Humanities 343
442-4078 (email preferred)

Eric Keenaghan has focused his research on the queer redefinition of politics, individualism, and eroticism in modernist and cold war poetries. He is the author of Queering Cold War Poetry: Ethics of Vulnerability in Cuba and the United States (Ohio State University Press, 2009). His articles, poetics essays, and review essays have appeared or are forthcoming in several journals, including: Journal of Modern LiteratureTextual Practice, modernism/modernityWilliam Carlos Williams ReviewJournal of Narrative Theory, Contemporary LiteratureJacket2The Translator, Translation Studies, GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studiespostmodern culture, and elsewhere. He has written entries on "gay poetry" and "queer poetry" for the newest edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th edition (Princeton UP, 2012). His essays on LGBTQ poetry and poetics also have appeared in The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature (Cambridge UP, 2014) and The Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian American Literature (Cambridge UP, 2015). He is also a contributing author to several critical collections, including: Ronald Johnson: Life and Works (National Poetry Foundation, 2008); The Other Emerson (Minnesota, 2010); [RE:]Working the Ground: Essays on the Late Writings of Robert Duncan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and other volumes. His original poetry has appeared in the little magazines and e-zines Jacket2, EOAGH, BarzakhTool: A Magazine, Io Donna (Italy), The Ixnay ReaderThe Portable Boog Reader, as well as the anthology In/Filtration: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry from the Hudson River Valley (Station Hill of Barrytown, 2015).

Currently, Professor Keenaghan is researching and writing two new critical monographs. The first, with the working title Personal Politics and Impersonal Poetics: The New Left Meets the New American Poetry, examines how cold war poet-activists associated with the antiwar, ecology, feminist, civil rights, and gay liberation movements translated a language and poetic practice of modernist "impersonality" into their activist ethos. Consequently, their work valuably reminds us that personal politics are not rooted exclusively in private experience. Instead, personal politics are matters of conditionality since the "private" human subject is bodily and affectively coextensive with its public environs. Their writings add a touch of humanity--what Julian Beck of the Living Theatre once referred to as "personism"--to situated politics, thus refiguring contemporary theory's posthumanist tendencies that might risk dehumanization. Subjects of this study include: William Carlos Williams and the Living Theatre, Muriel Rukeyser, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Duncan, Diane di Prima, and John Wieners.

A second book project, tentatively titled Life, Love, and War: Anarchist Pacifism and Twentieth-Century American Poetry, explores the archived and published writings of self-identified anarchist poets and poet-activists. Their work reveals clues about how poetic forms and conceptual vocabularies in the interwar period and into the Cold War tested the boundary between literature and politics, in the interest of promoting forms of peace (actually falling upon a broad spectrum ranging from "just warism" to "pacifism"). These poets' experimentation with form and subject matter can inform our ideas about how, in a time of war, art and poetry still has a social role and political life, even if--as W.H. Auden famously claimed--"poetry makes nothing happen." Subjects of this study include: Lola Ridge, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Paul Goodman, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, and Diane di Prima.

Similar ideas about the relationship between form and politics inform his own in-progress creative work, including his own original poetry, and his Études, an open series of lyrical essays exploring the disjunctions between art and political life and the experience of "reading" texts and activist discourse.

Professor Keenaghan also is editing The Usable Truth and Other Selected Prose by Muriel Rukeyser. Rukeyser is the subject of several pieces of his scholarship and a key influence on his own poetics. This volume recovers her forgotten shorter-form nonfiction--essays, journalism, activist writings, lectures--many of which have remained unpublished, and some of which even were suppressed by editors and publishers. These writings refocus our attention on the full scope and breadth of Rukeyser's career, including but also moving beyond the late 1930s and early 1940s (which have received the most critical attention). Over the course of her forty-plus-year writing career, Rukeyser organically integrated her ideas about the arts and sciences with her deep reading in metaphysical and scientific and political philosophies and her unwavering (though sometimes thorny) commitments to peace and anti-fascism, to educational access, and to social justice in all matters related to race, gender, class, and religious culture. 

Professor Keenaghan teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on modernist poetry and fiction, cold war and contemporary poetry, literature of the Left and new social movements, queer and gender studies, political philosophy, and literary theory. He also is the Director of the English Honors program. 

Click here for a complete vita.

Click here for an Étude on Rachel Blau DuPlessis' Drafts (published in jacket2).

Click here for selections from Love Letters to My Husband (original poems, published in Barzakh). 

Click here for an interview on Emerson and commonality (recorded for Against the Grain, broadcast on KPFA and WBAI).

Clike here for information about the English Honors Program.